Woman jailed and fined for not looking like her old ID picture

Posted by admin on Jul 1st, 2009

July 01, 2009, John Goddard, Toronto Star

A Toronto woman says she faces jail in Kenya because she no longer looks like her passport photo. Suaad Mohamud Haji, 31, concedes she has lost weight, changed her glasses and maybe looks a bit darker-skinned since the photo was taken more than four years ago. But that is no reason for jailing her for eight days, making her put up $2,500 (U.S.) bail and keeping her in limbo for two months before a hearing that could lead to jail again.

“Nobody believes me,” she said by phone yesterday from Nairobi. “I tell them, `Take my fingerprints.’

“They (Canadian and Kenyan officials) say, ‘No, you’re not a criminal.’

“I say, ‘How do you know?’ ”

Mohamud, originally from Somalia and a Toronto resident for 10 years, left to visit her sick mother in Nairobi on April 29. A single mother herself, she left her 12-year-old son with a neighbour. He is still there.

Mohamud was prepared to fly home May 17 when a Kenyan airport official challenged the photo. Nobody has suggested the passport is fake, she said, just that she doesn’t look like the picture.

She showed two other pieces of photo ID, her Ontario driver’s licence and OHIP card, along with her Canadian citizenship card, bank card and credit card, copies of which she also provided the Star.

But the Kenyans sent her to jail. A friend bailed her out and for five weeks, she says, she has tried to get the Canadian High Commission’s help.

“I phone them three times again today and nobody calls me back.”

She faces a court hearing July 21 and fears being jailed again if Canada doesn’t vouch for her, she said.

In Ottawa, a foreign affairs spokesman said Kenyan officials notified the high commission May 21 that somebody carrying a Canadian passport had been detained.

“Canadian officials are working with Kenyan authorities to verify the identity of the individual,” the spokesman said. Exactly what steps have been taken and why such verification has taken more than five weeks, he didn’t explain.

“Consular assistance will be provided if the individual is determined to be a Canadian citizen,” he said.

At Lawrence Square Mall, at Lawrence Ave. W. and Dufferin St., six of Mohamud’s friends gathered around a coffee table yesterday, along with her ex-husband Asbscir Hussein and their 12-year-old son Mohamed.

At first, nobody knew why she didn’t come home, they said.

“When she got bail she called,” said Shukri Abdi, the neighbour babysitting the boy, who lives in the same lowrise apartment. “I said, `I can’t believe it. What is going on?'”

The boy said he is being well taken care of, but he misses his mother.

All said they have spoken to Mohamud by phone, recognize her voice and could vouch for her identity – if only somebody would ask.

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