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Judge frees Somali journalist jailed over interview

The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) welcomes the decision by the Supreme Court of Somalia to free freelance journalist Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim after he interviewed an alleged rape victim.

The Chair of the Supreme Court Judge Eidid Ilkahanaf on Sunday, 17 March 2013, freed Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim, aka Koronto, after the Attorney General dropped charges leveled against the journalist. Attorney General stated that investigators provided incorrect information that informed their decision to file charges against the journalist and the alleged rape victim.

The judge said “following investigation we found no crime committed by the journalist and we therefore release him from the prison”.

“We welcome the decision of the supreme court to free Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim and to drop the charges against him by the Attorney General,” said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

“We always maintained that the journalist was innocent and there was no crime to imprison him for. Arresting and convicting a journalist for his own professional work is a deliberate violation of journalists' rights and suppression of free expression,” added Osman.

Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim was sentenced on 5 February 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. The Regional Appellate Court reduced this sentence to six month in prison.

NUSOJ understands that senior officials in the government were dissatisfied with the manner in which the case against the journalist was handled, including the charges, and were questioning the way the case was prepared by the investigators.

NUSOJ blames the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for pressing trumped-up charges against the journalist and the alleged rape victim. The CID investigators submitted the case to the Attorney General convincing the department that it had to file charges against the journalist. It emerged yesterday from the court that responsibility should lie with the CID investigators for misinforming judiciary authorities. The Attorney General's office was unable to continue the case and stand by its charges.

It was Wednesday, 13 March, when the Attorney General decided to drop the case against the journalist but was unable to proceed with the case due to administrative work of the Supreme Court and preparation of necessary paperwork.

“While we welcome the decision of the government to reform the judiciary, we also call on the government to reform the criminal investigations department of the police which has targeted journalists; Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim is the latest victim,” declared Osman. “Targeted investigations and following of journalists by the CID investigators must end."

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 the 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 the 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 the conviction had no legal value. 

NUSOJ reiterates its call to the government and the judiciary authorities in the country to end the practice of using the penal code against journalists for carrying out their work.

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