Somali court to hear journalist's appeal
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Court of appeals to hear case of journalist and woman he interviewed who alleged that government forces raped her.
A Somali court of appeals is due to hear the case of a journalist and a woman he interviewed who alleged that government forces had raped her.
Both journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim and the 27-year-old woman were sentenced to one year in prison during an earlier hearing. The charges included insulting a government body, making false accusations and seeking to profit from said allegations.
Rights activists, including US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW), have alleged that the ruling was politically motivated, and urged the appeals court to acquit the two defendants during Wednesday's hearing.
Three other defendants were acquitted during the February 5 trial by a Benadir regional court.
Ibrahim, who has been under detention since January 10, began serving his sentence at Mogadishu Central Prison immediately after the trial.
The woman is to begin her sentence after nursing her baby.
"The court finds that he offended state institutions by making a false interview, and entering the house of a woman whose husband was not present," said Judge Ahmed Adan while announcing the earlier verdict.
The journalist's arrest followed increasing media attention on reported sexual abuse by Somalia security forces. Earlier in January, Universal TV - a local television station - and Al Jazeera's website separately published stories about allegations of rape in the city's crowded camps for displaced people.
Ibrahim had not been involved with either story, does not work for either organisation, and had not published anything of his own investigation before he was detained.
"The outcome of this case is crucial for both the reporting of sexual violence and press freedom in Somalia,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "This case is a travesty, but it could still end with justice prevailing."
Prior to being charged, the woman was interrogated for two days by the police without a lawyer present, HRW said.
At the trial, the judges did not permit the defence to present witnesses or evidence to rebut the prosecution's case.