28 May 2003
RSF urges authorities to release newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah
(RSF/IFEX) - On 26 May 2003, RSF urged the authorities to release newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah at his appeal hearing scheduled for 28 May. Farah has been detained since 20 April for libelling Deputy Army Chief General Zakaria Cheik Ibrahim.
RSF urged State Prosecutor Djama Souleiman Ali to show clemency and request Farah's release at the hearing. Farah is both editor of the newspaper "Le Renouveau" and the head of an opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (MRD).
"To our knowledge, Daher Ahmed Farah has only exercised his right to inform the public, a right guaranteed by several international treaties ratified by the Republic of Djibouti," RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard said. "Nothing justifies this prolonged detention," Ménard added, noting that the United Nations condemns "imprisonment as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion."
RSF also announced that a member of Lawyers Without Borders would arrive in Djibouti on 26 May to defend Farah. No local lawyer is willing to defend him.
The deputy army chief sued Farah for libel because of a 6 March article accusing the army high command of carrying out politically-motivated dismissals. On 17 March, Farah was sentenced to a suspended sentence of six months in prison and a fine of 200,000 FD (approx. US$1,200; 1,000 euros). "Le Renouveau" criticised the army again on 17 April, accusing it of lacking "neutrality" and stating that it "should be apolitical." Farah was arrested three days later and placed in solitary confinement in Gabode prison. Only his mother has been allowed to visit him. His request for temporary release was turned down on 30 April.
A few days after his arrest, the Djibouti special police went to Farah's home and to the MRD's headquarters, where they confiscated seven typewriters, an amplifier, photocopier ink cartridges, and all of the newspaper's files, without showing a search warrant. On the morning of 5 May, police confiscated the latest issue of the newspaper from news stands and newspaper vendors.
Farah has been detained several times in the past few years. In most cases, he was prosecuted for a press crime and sentenced to prison terms or fines. On 15 March, he was detained for a day and fined for "undermining the army's morale."