Mozambique: Journalist Expected to Appear in Court Friday

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Maputo — Mozambican journalist Amade Abubacar, who was illegally detained by the military for 11 days in the town of Mueda, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, will hear the charges against him on Friday, in the court of his home district of Macomia, according to his lawyer.

Abubacar has worked for the state-owned Nacedje community radio in Macomia for the past nine years, and he also strings for the Zitamar news agency.

He was seized on the morning of 5 January in Macomia, as he was going about a normal journalistic task - interviewing and photographing families who were fleeing into Macomia town to escape terrorist attacks in the interior of the district.

Abubacar was driven 90 kilometres, into Mueda district, where he was held without charge in a military barracks, even though it is illegal to detain civilians in military facilities.

He was handed over to the police on Wednesday, and has now been returned to Macomia, where he is incarcerated in the district police command.

The lawyer, Augusto Armando, told Zitamar on Thursday "today I learned there is a formal case. Tomorrow (Friday) he should go before the judge for the prosecution to be formalised". He said he had received no further details about the case.

The deputy police spokesperson in Cabo Delgado province said Abubacar is accused of "public incitement using electronic media" - but did not elaborate. So far, the charges are extremely vague.

A source in the public prosecutor's office in Macomia, cited by Zitamar, said that Abubakar might be released on Friday, but did not explain whether this meant that charges would be dropped, or that he would be set free provisionally (perhaps on bail) to await trial at home.

The Mozambique chapter of the regional press freedom body MISA (Media Institute of Southern Africa) is insisting on Abubacar's unconditional release. Wazir Jonas, the Cabo Delgado representative of MISA, declared "We have always said that the detention of Amade was totally illegal. He must be released and assisted following the moral and physical damage done during his detention".

In Macomia, citizens who know Abubacar cannot believe that he is any way a supporter of the insurgent groups terrorising the northern districts of Cabo Delgado. He has a reputation as an honest professional journalist, and a man of integrity.

His brother, Ali Abubacar, interviewed in Friday's issue of the independent newssheet "Carta de Mocambique", suggested that the real reason for the detention was to silence him, since he is "a journalist committed to the truth".

"The family is in despair and is inconsolable", he added. "His children are going through a difficult time, because they don't know where their father is".

His brother's suspicions echo those of his father, Abubacar Artur, who told reporters on Wednesday that some people did not like the news items Abubacar broadcast on the community radio. "They've wanted to kidnap my son for a long time", he said. "There were just waiting for an opportunity, and they got it that day (5 January) in Macomia".

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