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Owner of Majan.net website avoids prison on appeal

(RSF/IFEX) - RSF welcomes an appeal court decision overturning a 17-month jail sentence imposed in November 2006 on Mohammed Rashed Shehhi, owner of the website Majan.net ( http://majan.net/ ) for allegedly defamatory comments.

On 19 November 2007, the Ras Al Khaimah appeal court ruled in favour of Rashed Shehhi, who had been sentenced in a lawsuit brought by a health ministry official, Dr Yasser Al Nuaimi. The case stems from comments on the website about a corruption case within the ministry involving abandoned medical equipment and a conserved foetus found in a warehouse, which provoked strong online reactions.

"The proceedings against Mohammed Rashed Shehhi were unfounded. Dr al Nuaimi had in any case dropped them on 30 October 2007," the worldwide press freedom organisation said. "We call for the reopening of Majan.net, which has been closed since August 2007, and for the case to be dropped against journalist Khaled Alasley, who is accused of being the author of the defamatory comments at the origin of Dr al Nuaimi's suit."

Alasley's appeal is to be heard on 26 November. He was sentenced to five months in prison on 12 September 2007 and denies being the author of the offending comments.

Mohammed Rashed Shehhi was sentenced on 8 August 2007 to one year in prison and a 15,000 euro fine for publishing the comments. He has had three other defamation suits filed against him and has already been given a one-year suspended prison sentence. His lawyer, Abdullah Omran, said he plans to appeal.

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