3 March 2013

Somalia: Somali Court Reduces Journalist Sentence

Photo: This Day
Symbol of justice.

Mogadishu's Banadir — Region appeal court has today reduced the one-year jail sentence of journalist Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim, aka Koronto, to six months.

The court found the journalist guilt of interviewing alleged rape victim without following "journalism ethics" and "laws of the country" by not informing the "relevant officials" and thus offending the "reputation of a national institution" and spreading "false news", according to presiding judge Mohamed Hassan Ali who also announced that the court acquitted alleged rape victim Lul Ali Osman due to lack of sufficient evidence.

"We are shocked that Ibrahim's sentence was reduced from one year to six months instead of acquitting him because we believe that no journalist should be sent to jail for any amount of time in relation to his or her work," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

It is unclear which rules of journalism ethics the court based its decision that found the journalist did not follow "journalism ethics". This raises the concern that draconian media law of 2007 might have been referred and ethical rules in this law were strongly challenged by journalists.

NUSOJ also challenges the ruling of the judge who stated that the journalists did not follow "laws of the country" as it is unknown to journalists why or under which obligation they should inform public officials of what they saw or heard in the course of their work, and if they don't what crime will a journalist commit.

According to a lawyer observing appeal process, there are serious irregularities in the legal proceedings. Defense lawyers at the appeal hearing worked to doubt the prosecution's evidence, frequently disapproving what they said were procedural

violations that have overwhelmed the case and lack of authentic evidence.

The defense declared in the court that they would file an appeal against this verdict at the Supreme Court to overturn the 6-month jail sentence and secure acquittal of Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim.

"We urge Supreme Council to immediately and satisfactorily consider this case and release Ibrahim from prison" added Osman. "We maintain that there is urgent need to review the country's laws, which in our opinion wrongly allow journalists to be prosecuted under penal code".

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".

On 20 February, appeal court started to hear the appeal of the case. Both the journalist and the alleged rape victim pleaded not guilty of falsifying the allegations. Following arguments from both the defense and prosecution, the session was adjourned and second hearing took place on 27 February. The judge stated that verdict would be announced on Sunday, March 3.

NUSOJ reiterates its position that Abdiasis Abdinur Ibrahim was denied his internationally recognised right to a fair trial and calls for his jail sentence to be rescinded.

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 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 attorney general. His home was searched.

The trial started on 2 February but was adjourned. NUSOJ officials attending the trial said intimidation was used and there was a constant violation of defense rights during the trial, meaning conviction of 5 February had no legal value, and he should have been acquitted today.

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