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Somalia January 31, 2013
H.E. Hassan Sheikh Mohamud
Office of the President
Republic of Somalia
We at the Overseas Press Club of America urge you to swiftly investigate the detention and criminal charges against Somali journalist, Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim. He has been charged with insulting a government body and inducing a woman to give false evidence, and faces up to four years in prison for the first charge and two years for the second.
The charges stem from a January 8 interview between Abdiaziz and a woman who says she was raped by state security forces in late 2012. Abdiaziz did not report the story to any media outlet; however, on January 10, he was called to report to the Somali Central Investigations Department of the police and when he did, was detained without charge. He has been interrogated repeatedly, his home was searched, and a computer and audio recorder were taken into evidence.
The alleged rape victim and two acquaintances who had put her in contact with journalists were also arrested. The woman was released on January 12 because she is breast feeding, but her husband, who maintains that she was raped, was detained in her stead.
After a long period of detention without charge, on January 29, the attorney general charged all five with multiple crimes that could result in prison terms of several years. The charges include insulting the government and inducing false evidence. The charge sheet indicates that the government believes there was a conspiracy to tarnish the reputation of the new government and security forces and somehow acquire financial gain. The next court hearing is scheduled for February 2.
These arrests are linked to increasing media attention about high levels of rape and other sexual violence in southern and central Somalia, including attacks allegedly committed by security forces. On January 6, Universal TV, a Somali television station, reported that armed men in police uniform had raped a young woman. The same day, Al Jazeera published an article describing rape by security forces in camps for internally displaced people in Mogadishu. The police have alleged that Abdiaziz Abdinur was involved in the Al Jazeera report, a claim that Al Jazeera has dismissed publicly.
Based on the information available, these charges appear to be a politically-motivated attempt to silence reporting about alleged serious rights violations by Somali security forces. The police handling of this case has a long-term significance and implications for media freedom and for victims of abuse by government forces.
We request that you call on the government to drop the charges against the journalist, the alleged victim, and others charged in the case. Immediate follow-up by your office would ensure that the government understands its obligations to investigate alleged abuses and appropriately discipline those implicated in press freedom violations.
We thank you in advance for your investigation and await your action in this case.
Freedom of the Press Committee
H.E. Abdi Farah Shirdon Said
Office of the Prime Minister
Republic of Somalia
Ambassador Elmi Duale
Permanent Mission of the Republic of Somalia to the United Nations
425 East 61st Street, Suite 702
New York, N.Y. 20065
Fax: (212) 759.0651