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Newspaper's provincial correspondent held by police

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of reporter Ahmed Aadan Dhere, who was arrested on 27 September 2007 in the city of Berbera, in the west of the northern breakaway state of Somaliland, and has been held ever since at Berbera police headquarters. Dhere is the correspondent of "Haatuf", a privately-owned daily based in the Somaliland capital of Hargeisa.

"The Somaliland authorities have a tendency to arrest journalists whenever they think it is in their interest, but if media issues are involved, this constitutes a serious violation of democratic standards," the press freedom organisation said. "In this particular case, Dhere is the victim of a conflict between a local politician and the central government. He obviously must be freed at once."

Dhere was arrested at around 9 p.m. (local time) by at least six policemen who came to his home in a Toyota pickup truck, Reporters Without Borders learned from "Haatuf" journalist Amin Jibril. He refused to go with them as they did not show a warrant, so they took him by force to Berbera police headquarters.

Dhere managed to tell his newspaper that, although not formally charged, he was arrested on the orders of regional deputy police director Ibrahim Bashe. According to the newspaper, Bashe ordered his arrest because of an article in the 24 September issue by local government councillor Awil Ali Sugule criticising relations between the central government and the authorities of Saaxil, the region where Berbera is located. Sugule was particularly critical of Somaliland's vice-president.

Dhere did not write this article and just acted as an intermediary between Sugule and the newspaper. "The police know they cannot arrest a local government councillor without solid, legal reasons," Sugule told "Haatuf"'s English-language sister publication, the "Somaliland Times". "So what do they do? They arrest a soft target, a journalist. If my article broke any law, I should be the one in jail, not Ahmed."

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