The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) on Wednesday condemned the conviction and sentencing of Somaliland journalist Mohamed Adan Dirir to 18 months in jail for “criminal defamation and publishing false news”.
The journalist, who has been in custody since September 16, was convicted during a one-day trial held without his lawyer being present, the CPJ said, adding that he was also fined one million Somaliland shillings.
The sentence on 8 October was meted out by a regional court in Hargeisa.
The journalist’s lawyer, Mubarik Abdi Ismail, said the courts did not inform him or the accused’s family of the court date. They learned of the conviction only after Mohamed, who is an editor for the online news portal Horseed News and owner of the news website Saylactoday, was sentenced.
However, the presiding judge in the case, Ahmed Dalmar Ismail, told CPJ that he informed Mohamed and the journalist’s lawyer of the new court date.
“Ahmed, who is president of the Hargeisa Regional Court, said that he permitted Mohamed to represent himself on October 8, which is allowed under Somaliland law,” reported Quintal.
Guleid Ahmed Jama, chairman of the non-governmental organisation Human Rights Center in Somaliland, said the charges were linked to articles Mohamed allegedly wrote on sites including Gabile Media, in which he accused a group of private schools in Hargeisa of misconduct and corruption.
Mohamed’s trial had initially been scheduled for 5 October, but the court postponed it because the judge had to attend a wedding, Guleid said.
“Mohamed Adan Dirir should never have been prosecuted in the first place and the manner in which this trial was carried out is unjust,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal, based in New York.
“Authorities should overturn the journalist’s conviction on appeal and release Mohamed immediately.”