Somali journalist stays in jail for reporting rape claim
Mogadishu: A Somali appeals court has dropped charges against a woman sentenced to a year in jail after she told a reporter she was raped by security forces, but the journalist will remain behind bars.
The case in which the pair were convicted of “offending state institutions”, has drawn international criticism with United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon saying he was “deeply disappointed”.
“The court orders the release of the woman, while the journalist will spend six months in jail for offending state institutions,” Judge Hassan Mohamed Ali said on Sunday, cutting reporter Abdiaziz Abdinuur’s original one-year sentence in half.
“The court has learnt that the journalist misled the alleged rape victim into the interview,” the judge added.
Abdinuur, 25, was detained on January 10 while researching sexual violence in Somalia, but did not air or print any report after interviewing the woman.
He was also found guilty of “making a false interview, and entering the house of a woman whose husband was not present”.
The court had initially deemed the woman’s story to be false after a midwife conducted a “finger test” to see if she had been raped, a practice Human Rights Watch said was an “unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited”.
The woman, who had originally been granted a six-month reprieve before the start of her jail term to allow her to breastfeed her infant child, walked free from the court in the capital, Mogadishu, after the ruling.
But Abdinuur was led away in handcuffs and put into a truck that took him back to the central prison, sparking angry reactions from rights groups and fellow journalists.
“This is completely insane and unjust,” said Omar Faruk Osman from Somalia’s journalists’ union.
“How can they jail someone for interviewing a victim? The lawyers will appeal again and take the case to the Supreme Court.”
Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said he was “happy to see the appeal court verdict on the rape victim” but that he had been “hoping for a different outcome” for the reporter.
“Journalists should not be sent to prison for doing their job,” he said in a message on Twitter, but added it would have been “inappropriate for the government to interfere” in the judiciary.