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Doctor jailed in Kurdistan for writing about homosexuality

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of Adel Hussein, a doctor who was sentenced to six months in prison on 24 November 2008 in the Kurdish city of Erbil for writing an article about homosexuality for the independent weekly "Hawlati". He was found guilty of "offending public decency" under article 403 of the Criminal Code.

"Sexual practices are part of the individual freedoms that a democratic state is supposed to promote and protect," Reporters Without Borders said. "Furthermore, Hussein did not defend homosexuality. He limited himself to describing a form of behaviour from a scientific viewpoint."

The press freedom organisation added: "We are astonished to learn that a press case has been tried under the criminal code. What was the point of adopting - and then liberalising - a press code in the Kurdistan region if people who contribute to the news media are still tried under more repressive laws?"

Currently held in the main prison in Erbil (330 km north of Baghdad), Hussein was prosecuted as a result of a complaint brought by the city's public prosecutor over a scientific article published in April 2007 that detailed the physical effects of sodomy. As well as getting a six-month jail term, he was fined 125,000 dinars (approx. 85 euros).

A member of the Union of Kurdish Journalists, Hussein often writes articles on health issues for the local press and hosts a programme on Newroz TV.

Tareq Fateh, one of "Hawlati"'s editors, told Reporters Without Borders the sentence was unfair. "Sex education articles should not be judged according to the standards of public decency," he said.

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