Abdiaziz Abdinuur Ibrahim
Somali journalist Abdiaziz Abdinuur Ibrahim has been released by the Supreme Court after being held in detention for 66 days.
Somalia’s Supreme Court on Sunday freed a reporter imprisoned for interviewing a woman who alleged she had been raped by soldiers, in a case that sparked widespread international criticism.
Supreme Court judge, Aidid Abdulahi Ilkahanaf, said the charges had been dropped and the court “has given journalist Abdiaziz Abdinuur Ibrahim his freedom back”.
Both Ibrahim and the woman were initially sentenced to a year in prison for “offending state institutions”. But all charges were dropped against the woman earlier this month, while Ibrahim’s sentence was halved.
The Somali attorney general said: “I ask for the court to correct the mistakes earlier done by the both courts, to be able to correct our mistakes since the primary investigation of the case was misled.”
His release, following more than two months’ incarceration and after an appeals court ruled he must remain in jail, came as a surprise to many.
Secretary General of The National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Mohamed Ibrahim, welcomed the release of Ibrahim.
“The verdict to release Ibrahim proves that the basic rights of the Somali journalists enshrined in the provisional federal constitution are fully respected,” he said.
The reporter walked out of the courtroom offering prayers of thanks for his release and thanking those who had supported him.
“I’m very happy that I got my freedom back, I thank those who worked in this process that helped my release including my lawyers”, he said.
Ibrahim was detained on January 10 while researching sexual violence in Somalia, but did not air or print a story 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, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) said was an “unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited”.
When she was sentenced, the woman was allowed to defer her prison term for six months to breastfeed her infant.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon said at the time he was “deeply disappointed” over the case.
Ibrahim works for several Somali radio stations and international media outlets.
Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said earlier this month that “journalists should not be sent to prison for doing their job,” but that it would be “inappropriate for the government to interfere” in the country’s judiciary.
Since the start of the case, rights groups and NUSOJ have warned that security forces have continued to crack down on the media.
The release comes days after Shirdon visited overcrowded Mogadishu’s central prison, where he described conditions as “deplorable” following the death of two prisoners due to cholera.
Source: DCMF and AFP
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