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Djibouti18 May 2007

Journalist freed but opposition weekly raided again

Reporters Without Borders today welcomed the release of journalist Houssein Ahmed Farah, a contributor to the opposition weekly Le Renouveau and member of the Movement for Democratic Renewal (MRD), but condemned another raid on Le Renouveau that followed his release.

Farah was freed on 13 May after a judge ruled there was not enough evidence to establish that he wrote an article published in the newspaper on 26 April linking President Ismaël Omar Guelleh to an alleged “sex scandal” involving a businessman from Dubai.

Within hours of his release, police from the department of criminal and special cases carried out another raid on Le Renouveau’s premises in the capital’s Hayableh neighbourhood, where newly acquired printing material was being stored.

As a result of the seizure of printing material in an earlier raid in February, the newspaper was unable to appear for a month. The material was never returned. Distribution of the newspaper has again been halted since the 13 May raid.

07.05.2007 - Brother of opposition weekly’s editor jailed again

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the imprisonment for the second time this year of journalist Houssein Ahmed Farah, a contributor to the opposition weekly Le Renouveau and brother of its managing editor, Daher Ahmed Farah. The state prosecutor yesterday ordered him detained in the capital’s Gabode prison.

“The government has been hounding Le Renouveau for years,” Reporters Without Borders said. “After the arrest of four of its employees and the seizure of most of its equipment and material in February, the newspaper had a lot of problems and was unable to publish for several weeks. This is the country’s only opposition newspaper, and the authorities should allow it to operate in a normal fashion, without harassing its staff.”

Houssein Ahmed Farah, who is also a member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (MRD), and Hared Abdallah Barreh, the newspaper’s distribution manager, were arrested at their homes on 3 May by police from the department of criminal and special cases, who held them at their headquarters, on the north side of the capital, and did not tell them the reason for their arrest for two days.

Their arrest appears to have been prompted by a report in the newspaper on 26 April linking President Ismaël Omar Guelleh to an alleged “sex scandal” involving Abdallah Hamiri, a businessman from Dubai who, at Guelleh’s request, collects consumer tax at the port of Djibouti, taking over the role previously carried out by the customs department.

The report accused Hamiri of sexually abusing one of his female employees. Hamiri did not bring a libel action, but the state prosecutor announced that the newspaper would nonetheless be prosecuted. When Farah and Barreh appeared before the prosecutor yesterday, he ordered Barreh’s release but placed Farah in pre-trial custody.

In this country
26 June - Djibouti
Government’s authoritarian excesses condemned on 30th anniversary of independence
13 February - Djibouti
Authorities urged to drop libel prosecution against opposition weekly
9 July - Djibouti
Appeal court sends newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah back to prison
24 June - Djibouti
Newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah released again
7 June - Djibouti
Newspaper editor re-arrested just two days after he was released

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