Home Page > News Item > SOMALIA: Journalist sentenced to one year in prison for investigating alleged rape

Update #1 to RAN 06/13 8 February 2013

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International condemns the one-year prison sentence handed down to freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim on 5 February 2013 for insulting a government body, “spreading false news” and inducing false evidence, after he interviewed a woman allegedly raped by security forces. PEN International believes that Ibrahim’s trial was politically motivated, designed to silence those who report on controversial issues. It calls for Ibrahim’s conviction to be quashed and for his immediate and unconditional release.

On 5 February 2013, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim, a freelance journalist who has reported for several local and international news outlets including Dalsan Radio, Badri Media Productions and the UK-based Daily Telegraph, was sentenced to one year in prison. He was immediately transferred to a central prison in Mogadishu following sentencing.

Arrested on 10 January 2013, Ibrahim was held without charge beyond the legal limit and with only intermittent access to a lawyer. On 29 January, he was charged under Article 269 of the Somali penal code with insulting a government body, “spreading false news” and inducing false evidence, amongst other charges. The charges stem from Ibrahim’s investigation into the alleged rape in December 2012 of an internally displaced woman by state security forces. The information Ibrahim gained from his 6 January interview has reportedly not been published by any media outlet. However, Somali authorities believe that he is responsible for two separate stories detailing allegations of rape made by women in Mogadishu camps published in early January by Universal TV – a local television station – and Al Jazeera’s website. Al Jazeera has publicly dismissed such claims, denying Ibrahim’s involvement with their organisation or either story.

The woman who made the rape allegations was also sentenced to one year in prison on the same insult charge; her sentence was reportedly deferred for one year to allow her to look after her young child. Three other defendants, including the alleged rape victim’s husband, were released. According to reports, local journalists who attended the trial said that the judge did not allow the defence to present several witnesses and that the prosecution had failed to provide relevant evidence, one of a number of irregularities in the case. Prior to the trial, the government made a public statement in which it claimed that the allegation of rape made by the woman whom Ibrahim interviewed was false, and accused him of fabricating the story. By declaring the detainees guilty in the press the authorities disregarded their presumption of innocence, which is a fundamental component of the right to a fair trial.

Useful links
• Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) (5/2/2013) Somali court hands journalist one-year jail term: http://cpj.org/2013/02/somali-court-hands-journalist-one-year-jail-term.php
• Al Jazeera (5/2/2013) Somali journalist sentenced over rape report: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/02/20132575930813228.html
• IFEX (30/01/2013) Somali authorities charge alleged rape victim and journalist: http://www.ifex.org/somalia/2013/01/30/somalia_alleged_rape/

Please send appeals:
• Condemning the one-year prison sentence handed down to freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim on charges of insulting a government body, “spreading false news” and inducing false evidence, after he interviewed an internally displaced woman allegedly raped by state security forces;
• Calling on the Somali authorities to quash the conviction of Ibrahim and the alleged rape victim, and to release Ibrahim immediately and unconditionally;
• Calling upon the Somali authorities to allow Ibrahim and others detained in connection with the case full access to lawyers, doctors and family members, until such time as they are released.

Send your appeals to:

Minister of Interior and National Security
H.E. Abdikaram Hussein Guled,
Ministry of Interior
Mogadishu, Somalia
Email: guuleed20@hotmail.com
Salutation: Dear Minister

Minister of Justice
H.E. Abdullahi Abyan Nur
Ministry of Justice
Mogadishu, Somalia
Email: justicesom@hotmail.com
Salutation: Dear Minister

State Minister of the Presidential Palace
H.E Farah Sheikh Abdulkader
Office of the President
Mogadishu, Somalia
Email: faaraxsheekh@yahoo.com
Salutation: Dear Minister

Please send also appeals to diplomatic representatives of Somalia in your country. Details of some Somali embassies around the world can be seen here:

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 7 April 2013***

For further details please contact Tamsin Mitchell at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: International PEN, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 207 405 0339 email: tamsin.mitchell@pen-international.org