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Djibouti13 February 2007

Authorities urged to drop libel prosecution against opposition weekly

Reporters Without Borders today called on the authorities to abandon a libel prosecution against the opposition weekly Le Renouveau after a court ruled on 11 February that the prosecution case was incomplete.

Journalist Houssein Ahmed Farah, the brother of Le Renouveau managing editor Daher Ahmed Farah, was released provisionally on 10 February after three days in detention and appeared in court the next day on the charge of libelling the national bank governor, President Ismaël Omar Guelleh’s brother-in-law, in an editorial.

The judge ordered an adjournment until 18 February after discovering that the prosecution case file contained no copy of the issue with the offending editorial.

It is unclear on what legal grounds Houssein Ahmed Farah is being prosecuted instead of his brother, who is currently out of the country. Daher Ahmed Farah, who also heads the opposition Movement for Democratic Renewal (MRD), told Reporters Without Borders his brother did not write the editorial. “It was an article without a byline, and in such a case it is the managing editor, myself, who assumes responsibility.”

The printing material which the police took from the newspaper has not yet been returned. As a result, the newspaper is still unable to appear.

08.02.2007 - Weekly editor’s brother kept in custody, but three others released

After spending 24 hours in police custody, journalist Houssein Ahmed Farah was taken today before the state prosecutor, who ordered that he remain in detention. He is the brother of Daher Ahmed Farah, the managing editor of the privately-owned weekly Le Renouveau, which did not appear today as the police have seized its printing material.

Hared Abdallah Barreh, who is in charge of distributing the newspaper and who is a member of Daher Ahmed Farah’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Renewal (MRD), and Farah Abadid Hildid, the president of one of the party’s federations, were released during the day yesterday, while Daoud Farah Iyeh, one of Daher Ahmed Farah’s cousins, was freed last night.

07.02.2007 - Police arrest brother and cousin of opposition weekly’s managing editor

After being sought by police for five days, Houssein Ahmed Farah was arrested today and taken to the criminal investigation department, Reporters Without Borders has learned from his brother, Daher Ahmed Farah, managing editor of the privately-owned weekly Le Renouveau and head of the Movement for Democratic Renewal (MRD), an opposition party.

One of his cousins, Daoud Farah Iyeh, was arrested yesterday for unknown reasons, the same source said. As the police have seized its printing material, the newspaper can no longer be produced.

“This is an operation aimed at silencing the only small newspaper that still resists,” Daher Ahmed Farah told Reporters Without Borders. “With Le Renouveau reduced to silence, the gagging of press freedom and free speech is complete, after 30 years of absolute rule, suppression of the opposition, poverty and social tension - all this under the eyes of western democracies such as France and the United States, which have a military presence in Djibouti.”

The newspaper has been formally accused of libel in an article published on 1 February about a businessman who reportedly paid an indemnity to the national bank governor, who happens to be President Ismaël Omar Guelleh’s brother-in-law.

05.02.2007 - Authorities again harass opposition weekly Le Renouveau

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the government’s renewed harassment of the staff of the privately-owned weekly Le Renouveau, including its managing editor, Daher Ahmed Farah. The newspaper is the mouthpiece of one of Djibouti’s main opposition parties, the Movement for Democratic Renewal (MRD).

“After three years of relative peace, Le Renouveau is again the target of government hostility,” the press freedom organisation said. “Rather than setting the police and judicial authorities on one of Djibouti’s few dissident publications, the authorities should realise that it is archaic to try to control news and information.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “Those who work for Le Renouveau and Farah’s family and associates must be left in peace as they are being hounded over an article of which the sole shortcoming was to have irked the regime.”

The police raided Farah’s home without a warrant on 2 February claiming they were looking for Farah’s brother. Farah is currently out of the country. The next day, the police arrested Hared Abdallah Barreh, an MRD member who is in charge of distributing the newspaper, and Farah Abadid Hildid, who heads one of the party’s federations.

The two men are currently being held at the headquarters of the police criminal investigation department. MRD vice-president Souleiman Farah Lodon and MRD secretary-general Souleiman Hassan Fadal were meanwhile interrogated successively by the state prosecutor and the police, and then released. The police raided Farah’s home again on 4 February and seized a computer.

The police raids and arrests have been carried out as part of a judicial investigation into an article published by Le Renouveau on 1 February. Headlined “Omar Aïdid incurs the wrath of the authorities,” it was about the arrest of a businessman involved in a dispute with the national bank president, who is President Ismaël Omar Guelleh’s brother-in-law.

The Guelleh regime has had Farah in its sights for more than a decade. He was arrested four times in 2003, spending a total of 90 days in prison. His brother Houssein spent nine days in prison in June 2004 for allegedly endangering the First Lady’s life when he braked sharply in his car to avoid her passing motorcade. He was covering a street demonstration at the time.

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Appeal court sends newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah back to prison
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Newspaper editor re-arrested just two days after he was released

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