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Puntland court releases reporter after six months in jail

(NUSOJ/IFEX) - 31 December 2010 - The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) welcomes today the release of journalist Yusuf Ali Adan, an online reporter for Somalifans news website, whose whereabouts remained unknown until December 2010, when Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS) produced him at the Criminal Court in Bossasso town of Puntland.

Adan, who was released on Thursday 30 December, was first brought to the Criminal Court in Bossasso town on 27 December. The judge of the court, Abdirisak Hareed, asked the prosecutor to present to the court criminal evidence he had against the defendant, but the prosecutor could not bring enough evidence to the court. However, he claimed that Adan had defamed the Ports Minister of Puntland, which caused the public to panic, and which could have resulted in imminent anarchist action, insecurity and social unrest. The prosecutor added that the minister had withdrawn his complaint of defamation.

"This is a great day and the year ends with this joyous news. Justice was done for Adan, at last. Criminalising journalists' work has been something that we have been protesting all these months," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

The lawyer for the defendant, Ahmed Barre, said that Adan did not commit any crime and there is no any criminal evidence against him. The lawyer added that Adan is an innocent citizen who was jailed illegally for nearly six months without charges. The lawyer requested that the court release Adan and that he be compensated by the administration for the illegal detention.

The judge had asked the prosecutor on 27 December to bring the court the statement in which the minister declared his withdrawal of the defamation complaint on top of sufficient evidence to substantiate his case before 30 December. The judge also ordered that Adan be held in jail until the trial continued on 30 December.

When Adan was brought to court for the second time, the prosecutor read the same statement from the previous hearing. Adan's lawyer claimed that the accusations against his client did not exist and had no legal basis. The lawyer again asked the judge to release Adan and rule that compensation be paid to the journalist.

The judge finally declared that the prosecutor had failed to bring the court any legal evidence against the journalist and so he ruled to release Yusuf Ali Adan. However, the judge did not force authorities to pay any compensation to Adan.

During the court's ruling, members of Adan's family, friends, journalists and human rights defenders were present at court. After the ruling took place, Adan was freed and he left the court with some members of his family.

Adan was first arrested on 7 July 2010 when the administration soldiers captured him in Bossasso town. The soldiers later handed the reporter over to the PIS - the Puntalnd counter-terrorism agency - who kept the reporter incommunicado before they relocated him to the central prison in Bossasso.

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