Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage at the 10-year prison sentence imposed yesterday on journalist and human rights activist Jennifer Latheef for a supposed “terrorist act” and said she had been the victim of a political trial.
“She got this heavy sentence in large part because she is the daughter of exiled opposition leader Mohamed Latheef,” the press freedom organisation said. “The terrorism charges were just a device to silence a political opponent and gag an independent journalist. We call on President Gayoom to keep his promises of democracy and to ensure that Jennifer Latheef is retried by an impartial court that respects the right of defence.”
The “terrorist act” supposedly committed by Latheef, now aged 32, was to have allegedly thrown a stone at a policeman during a demonstration held on 20 September 2003 in protest against the death of five prisoners of conscience under torture. The charge was based entirely on the testimony of police officers that was often contradictory.
Latheef’s health has deteriorated steadily in recent weeks, largely due to the stress of the trial. She was hospitalised in early October and was unable to attend a hearing on 13 October at which five other dissidents on trial with her received 11-year sentences. Latheef was arrested at the end of yesterday’s trial. The authorities did not say where she had been taken.
Latheef is a researcher and photographer with the Minivan Daily, a newspaper that currently has two other journalists in prison.