SOMALI police have charged five people including a journalist and a woman allegedly raped by government troops in a case dismissed by rights groups as “politically motivated”.
Freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinuur, who works for several Somali radio stations as well as international media, was detained without charge on January 10 in the capital Mogadishu after researching rampant sexual violence in Somalia.
On Tuesday, he was charged with “offending the honour of a state institution and for filing a false report”, the United Nations’ political office for Somalia said in a statement.
The woman, “who reported having been the victim of a rape, has also been charged with false reporting and for offending the honour of a state institution,” it added.
The reporter is facing up to six years in prison, while the woman faces up to nine years. The trial is due to start on Saturday.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) says three others have been charged – the woman’s husband, and a man and woman who helped introduce her to the journalist.
The UN said it had raised concerns about the handling of the pre-trial phase, in particular about the prolonged detention and previous lack of access to legal counsel, and how that could negatively impact the trial.
Amnesty International, HRW and the Committee to Protect Journalists say the case is “linked to increasing media attention given to the high levels of rape… including attacks allegedly committed by security forces.”
Somalia, which has been ravaged by relentless conflict since 1991, chose a new government in September in a United Nations-backed process, ending eight years of transitional rule by a corruption-riddled government.
Many hoped the new administration would give the country its first effective central government since the fall of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.