Today, 25th June 2014, Hargeisa Regional Court sentenced two journalists from Haatuf Media Group to between three and four years of imprisonment and compensation of fifty millions of Somaliland Shillings. Yusuf Abdi Gabobe, chairman of Haatuf Media Group, is sentenced to three years of imprisonment and Ahmed Ali Ege, Editor-in-chief of Haatuf newspaper, is sentenced to four years of imprisonment. The Court also ruled the revocation of the license of Haatuf Media Group.
Human Rights Center condemns the stunning court judgment which is in violation of the freedom of the press guaranteed by article 32 of the constitution of Somaliland.
The hearing of the case against the journalists started after Haatuf newspaper and its sister English newspaper, Somaliland Times, were suspended by Court in 7th April 2014. On 13th December 2013, the authorities similarly closed down Hubaal newspaper.
The trial was not in conformity with the national laws and the international standards. The defendants were not given chance to defend themselves in contrary to article 28(2) of the constitution and article 116 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The court only heard the prosecution office.
The lawyer of the journalists, who was not at the court hearing, told HRC that the verdict is unfair and unjust. Hassan Ali Hassan, the lawyer, said that the judge restricted the lawyers to perform their tasks and hence they were not able to defend their clients. The lawyers only attended fully one hearing. The trial continued without legal defence.
The court instead of applying the Press Law 2004, applied the Penal Code which is outdated and general in contrary to article 130(5) of the constitution which states that the pre-constitution laws are only applicable if they do not conflict individual rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the constitution. The article further stipulates that after promulgation of new law, the previous laws shall not remain in force. The Penal Code predates the constitution and the Press Law.
Human Rights Centre expresses its deep concern on the crackdown of the independent media. The Centre calls on the government of Somaliland to immediately quash the judgement, release the journalists and lift the suspension of the newspapers.
Guleid Ahmed Jama
Human Rights Center
Mobile: +252 (0) 63 4468227