A Somalia court will give its ruling on Sunday on an appeal by a journalist against his jailing for one year for interviewing an alleged rape victim.
Hassan Mohamed Ali, the judge at the court of appeals in Mogadishu, said on Wednesday he needed more time to consider the case and pronounce his verdict.
“This case has a lot of weight and we will announce the verdict on Sunday 3 of March,” he said.
Journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim and the 27-year-old woman were sentenced to one year in prison on charges including insulting a government body, making false accusations and seeking to profit from said allegations.
As Ibrahim was led away from the courtroom, he could be heard screaming to his defence team “There is no justice here, let me serve the one-year jail term.”
Somalia’s National Journalists’ Union said they were not happy with Wednesday’s postponement. “Our friend is going back to jail. This delay is not good. Verdict should have been announced today”, Mohamed Ibrahim, secretary general of the union said.
But Mohamed Mohamud Afrah, Ibrahim’s lawyer, told Al Jazeera that he was hopeful Ibrahim will be freed on Sunday. “All our evidence that we put forward was seen today. Most of the witnesses were also brought before the court, which did not happen before. So we hopeful of good outcome on Sunday,” he said.
“I’m concerned about his [Ibrahim] mental state as he was crying as he was led away today for the first time.” he added.
Rights activists, including US-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW), have alleged that the ruling was politically motivated, and urged the appeals court to acquit the two defendants.
Three other defendants were acquitted during the February 5 trial by a Benadir regional court.
At the trial, the judges did not permit the defence to present witnesses or evidence to rebut the prosecution’s case. Prior to being charged, the woman was interrogated for two days by the police without a lawyer present, HRW said.
Ibrahim, who has been under detention since January 10, began serving his sentence at Mogadishu Central Prison immediately after the trial. The woman is to begin her sentence after nursing her baby.
The journalist’s arrest followed increasing media attention on reported sexual abuse by Somalia security forces. Earlier in January, Universal TV – a local television station – and Al Jazeera’s website separately published storiesabout allegations of rape in the city’s crowded camps for displaced people.
Ibrahim had not been involved with either story, does not work for either organisation, and had not published anything of his own investigation before he was detained.
“The outcome of this case is crucial for both the reporting of sexual violence and press freedom in Somalia,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This case is a travesty, but it could still end with justice prevailing.”
The initial ruling by the local court raised concerns over sexual violence and press freedom in the country, which is ranked lower than Iran and China for press freedom in this year’s World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
With additional reporting from Hamza Mohamed in Mogadishu