A Somali court has reduced the sentence of a journalist who interviewed a rape victim and freed the victim who had been sentenced to one year in prison for alleging sexual assault.
Tthe appeals court in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, ruled on Sunday that Abdiaziz Abdinuur Ibrahim would remain in jail for six months.
“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, cutting the reporter’s original sentence in half.
The 27-year-old woman was charged with insulting a government body, making false accusations, and seeking to profit from the allegations.
“The court has learned that the journalist misled the alleged rape victim into the interview,” the judge added.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued an immediate response to the verdict.
“The court of appeals missed a chance to right a terrible wrong, both for the journalist and for press freedom in Somalia,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at HRW.
“The government has argued that justice should run its course in this case, but each step has been justice denied.”
‘Insane and unjust’
Abdinuur, who was detained on January 10 was also found guilty of “making a false interview, and entering the house of a woman whose husband was not present”.
He had been researching sexual violence in Somalia, but did not air or print any reports after interviewing the woman.
The unidentified woman, who had originally been granted a delay of six months before having to start 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 journalist colleagues.
“This is completely insane and unjust,” said Mohammed Ibrahim, from Somalia’s national journalists’ union.
“How can they jail someone for interviewing a victim? The lawyers will appeal again and take the case to the Supreme Court.”
Abdinuur works for several Somali radio stations and international media.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a joint statement during the trial the case was “linked to increasing media attention given to the high levels of rape” including by