A jury in Alexandria, Virginia, on Tuesday found a former Somali colonel, Yusuf Abdi Ali, who served under dictator president Siad Barre guilty of torturing a man when he was a teenager in 1987 and must pay him $400,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages.
Then a 17-year-old farmer from the Isaaq clan in breakaway Somaliland, Farhan Mohamoud Tani Warfaa, in court documents alleged he was arrested and tortured for several months by soldiers under Ali after being accused of being involved in the theft of a water tanker, The Washington Post reports. Warfaa alleged that his body was sometimes tied in a very painful posture to look like the Somali army’s MiG fighter jets. After enduring four months of torture, Warfaa claims he was shot several times by Ali.
The jury, however, cleared Ali of charges of attempting to illegally kill Warfaa. Ali was first sued by Warfaa in 2005 but the case was delayed due to issues pertaining to jurisdiction and immunity, The Washington Post further reports.
Nicknamed “Colonel Tukeh (The Crow)”, Ali, who has been residing in the United States for decades and has worked for Uber, Lyft and as a security guard at Dulles International Airport has for several years been accused of committing several war crimes during the civil war in Somalia in the 1980s. He has, however, not been convicted in the Horn of Africa nation, according to CNN.
“It has been a long journey seeking justice for what happened to me and to my community. Today’s verdict was a vindication not only for me, but also for many others in Somaliland who suffered under Col. Tukeh’s command,” Warfaa said in a statement after the verdict.
The Center for Justice & Accountability, who represented Warfaa also confirmed the verdict on social media.
“Today, a Virginia jury found Col. Yusuf Abdi Ali (aka “Tukeh”), a former high-ranking military commander in Siad Barre’s military dictatorship in #Somalia, responsible for the #torture of CJA client semi-nomadic Somali herder Farhan Warfaa,” they shared.
Joseph Peter Drennan, Ali’s attorney however told CNN they were disappointed with the verdict.
“Yusuf Abdi Ali was held liable because he was a commander in an army that served under a regime that had a poor human rights record. But aside from the plaintiff’s testimony, there was virtually no evidence that Ali tortured anyone,” he said.
Drennan also claims Ali, who is currently out of job as a result of CNN exposing him and his past is not in the position to pay the damages due to financial constraints.
Ali was initially in the U.S. for military training in 1990 but fled to Canada when Barre was just about being deposed, The Washington Post reports. He was subsequently deported by both countries after the atrocities he committed in Somalia were exposed by the media. He, however, re-entered the U.S. on a spousal visa on 1996.
How Ali passed security background checks to get jobs despite his alleged past has raised many eyebrows.