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Djibouti30 May 2003

Appeals court reduces editor’s sentence

30/05/03

The Djibouti appeals court on 28 May cut Le Renouveau editor Daher Ahmed Farah’s six-month suspended jail sentence to four months. The fine of two million Djibouti francs (FD) (more than 10,000 euros) was cancelled and he was ordered to pay damages of 500,000 FD (about 2,500 euros) instead. The court also said the daily paper could be published again. After the hearing however, Farah was taken back to Gabode prison, where he was locked in an old lavatory measuring only 2.5 metres by 1.5. The second case for which he is in jail is still being prepared.


28/05/03

Reporters Without Borders urged the authorities to release newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah

Reporters Without Borders today urged the authorities to release newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah when his appeal hearing is held on 28 May. Farah has been detained since 20 April for libelling deputy army chief Gen. Zakaria Cheik Ibrahim.

The organisation urged state prosecutor Djama Souleiman Ali to show clemency and request Farah’s release at the hearing. Farah is both editor of the newspaper Le Renouveau, and the head of an opposition political party, the Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (MRD).

"To our knowledge, Daher Ahmed Farah just exercised his right to inform the public, a right guaranteed by several international treaties ratified by the Republic of Djibouti," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said. "Nothing justifies this prolonged detention," Ménard added, noting that the United Nations condemns "imprisonment as punishment for the peaceful expression of an opinion."

Reporters Without Borders also announced that a member of Lawyers Without Borders would arrive in Djibouti today May to defend Farah. No local lawyer is willing to defend him.

The deputy army chief sued Farah for libel because of an article on 6 March accusing the army high command of carrying out politically-motivated dismissals. On 17 March, Farah was sentenced to a suspended sentence of six months in prison and a fine of 2, 000,000 FD (about 10,000 euros).

Le Renouveau criticised the army again on 17 April, accusing it of lacking "neutrality" and saying it " should be apolitical." Farah was arrested three days later and placed in solitary confinement in Gabode prison. Only his mother has been allowed to visit him. His request for provisional release was turned down on 30 April.

A few days after his arrest, the Djibouti special police went to Farah’s home and to the headquarters of the MRD where they confiscated seven typewriters, an amplifier, replacement ink cartridges for the photocopiers, and all of the newspaper’s files, although no search warrant was shown. On the morning of 5 May, police confiscated the latest issue of the newspaper from news stands and newspaper vendors.

Farah was previously detained several times in the past few years. In most cases, he was prosecuted for a press crime and sentenced to prison terms for fines. On 15 March, he was detained for a day and fined for "undermining the army’s morale."



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Authorities urged to drop libel prosecution against opposition weekly
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Appeal court sends newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah back to prison
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