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Somali journalist and alleged rape victim given one-year jail term

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 5 February 2013 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) today called on the Federal Government of Somalia to immediately quash the conviction of a journalist after an unfair trial at Banadir regional court, for a case relating to an alleged rape victim.

Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim, aka Koronto, was sentenced today to one year in prison for offending the “reputation of [a] national institution”, spreading “false news” and “paying money to get a false rape story”. After the sentencing, Ibrahim was immediately transferred to the central prison.

Lul Ali Osman, 27, the alleged rape victim, was also sentenced to one year in prison. She spoke to the journalist after her husband, Muhyadin Sheikh Mohamed Jimale, allegedly brought the journalist to her with the purported help and facilitation of Hawo Hassan Ali and Abdirisak Abdullahi Hussein.

But Ibrahim did not publish his interview with Lul, contrary to what police claimed.

"Imprisoning a journalist simply for doing his job challenges media freedom and makes a mockery of the legal process in Somalia," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General. "The Somali government should rectify this miscarriage of justice speedily."

NUSOJ believes that Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim was denied his internationally recognised right to a fair trial and calls for his jail sentence to be rescinded.

The Deputy Attorney General, Jamal Mohamed Ahmed, officially charged Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim, 25, on 28 January, along with four other defendants. Ibrahim was charged under the Somali Penal Code — specifically articles 269 and 296. He was accused of offending the “reputation” of a national institution and spreading “false news” to kill the reputation of a “Somali national institution”, and that he paid money to get a “false rape story” in order to disseminate it and “gain income”.

The journalist was arrested on 10 January after the police summoned him to the Central Investigations Department (CID) for interrogations. He was arrested and detained beyond legal limit without charges or legal representation for days. Ibrahim's mobile was confiscated and was used by investigators at the CID and officers at the office of attorney general. His home was searched.

The trial started on 2 February but was adjourned. NUSOJ officials attending the trial said there were a lot of irregularities during the investigation; intimidation was used and there was a constant violation of defense rights during the trial, meaning today's conviction has no legal value.

NUSOJ has been engaged in regular communications with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of the Interior and National Security, and police in a bid to secure his release.

In a letter to the Minister of the Interior and National Security, Abdikarin Hussein Guled, on 15 January, NUSOJ informed the Minister that Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim was illegally detained by the police without charges longer than the limit to detain someone without charges.

NUSOJ also raised concerns over prosecuting the journalist under the Somali penal code.

“Charging a journalist under the penal code for doing his journalism work means criminalising journalistic work. We are against trying a journalist under the penal code,” said the letter to the Minister of Interior.

Defamation and false news remain criminal offenses under Somalia's penal code. Criminal penalties are always disproportionate punishments for journalists and easily open to abuse.

NUSOJ calls on the federal government to urgently amend Somali Penal Code to decriminalize media work and defamation.

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