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Haatuf Journalists sent to prison
Mandera, Somaliland, March 10, 2007 (SL Times) – Somaliland Times editor Yusuf Abdi Gabobe along with three other Haatuf journalists, Ali Abdi Dini, Muhammad Omar Sheekh and Muhammad-Rashid M Farah were sentenced last Sunday by the Hargeysa Regional Court judge Faisal A Ismail to prison terms ranging from 2 to 2 ½ years. In addition, the court ordered Haatuf Media Network (HMN), the publisher of Somaliland Times and its sister Somali language paper Haatuf Daily, to pay a court fine of $850, and called for the indefinite suspension of HMN license.
Yusuf Abdi Gabobe and editor of Haatuf Daily, Ali Abdi Dini, were arrested on 2 Jan 2007 over a series of articles written by Haatuf investigative reporter Farah and published in Haatuf Daily from November 2006 to January 2007. The articles exposed corruption and nepotism by President Dahir Rayale and his household.
The arrests of Gabobe and Dini took place after armed Somaliland police and CID forces who originally came to arrest Haatuf editor Dini and reporter Farah, forced their way into HMN offices without legal warrant or court summons. Somaliland Times editor and chairman of HMN, Mr Gabobe, protested against the CID and Police’s illegal action; consequently, Gabobe was arrested along with Dini. Farah managed to evade being arrested because his identity was not known by the police conducting the raid. Farah has been in hiding since then. The fourth journalist, Haatuf’s Awdal region reporter, Muhammad Omar Sheekh, was arrested on 14 Jan 2007 in Borama, the capital region of Awdal. The Awdal Regional Court issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with articles alleging environmental damage caused to Zaila coastal coral reefs by a private fishing company linked to President Rayale’s household, which appeared in Haatuf Daily paper in November 2006.
The defendants (Yusuf Abdi Gabobe, Ali Abdi Dini and Muhammad Omar Sheekh) were present when the court proceedings began. The presiding judge asked the defendants whether the court could proceed without their lawyers, and whether they were willing to defend themselves. The defendants argued that the entire court set up was neither fair nor impartial, that the court was unconstitutional because it abrogated the ‘Press Law’, that they had no confidence in the court proceedings and knew the court already reached ‘a verdict which is tailored to please the wishes of President Rayale’. For these reasons, and the fact that the trial proceedings were politicized and biased, the Haatuf journalists declined to present a defense.
The Hargeysa Regional Court presiding judge, Faisal A Ismail, read out the verdict from the temporary courthouse venue in the Mandera Police Academy hall in Mandera district of Sahil region to a packed court. Yusuf Abdi Gabobe, the editor of Somaliland Times and chairman of HMN, was sentenced to two years imprisonment for ‘obstructing and threatening the police from carrying out their duties.’ The editor of Haatuf Daily paper Ali Abdi Dini, Awdal Haatuf correspondent Mohamed Omar Sheikh Ibrahim, together with investigative reporter Muhamad Rashid Farah who was tried in absentia received sentences of two years and five months for ‘Insulting the good name and honor of the Head of State and for inciting the national forces of Somaliland to rebel against the state and encouraging the general public to riot and engage in acts of public disorder against the state’. In addition, the presiding judge of Hargeysa Regional Court Faisal A Ismail ordered HMN to pay a court fine of 5 Million Somaliland Shilling (equivalent to $850), and at the same time called for the withdrawal of the trade license from HMN.
Amid much controversy, the Haatuf journalists were convicted under the 1962 Penal Code of Somalia. It was only five days before the sentencing that the Somaliland Supreme Court upheld the Hargeysa Regional Court’s January decision to try the Haatuf journalists under the 1962 Penal Code of Somalia instead of the recent 2004 Press Law of Somaliland. Lawyers of the journalists had filed an appeal to the Supreme Court arguing that the Hargeysa Regional Court’s decision was unconstitutional and that the case be tried under Somaliland's 2004 Press Law, but the Supreme Court rejected Haatuf’s appeal.
The defense lawyers boycotted Sunday's (4 March) proceedings, which took place in Mandera's police academy (93 miles NE Hargeysa), citing the venue was illegal.
Numerous local and international human rights and freedom of speech organizations condemned the ruling, and called for President Rayale to unconditionally release the journalists and to withdraw the suspension of HMN’s license.
Source: Somaliland Times
Past news items relating to this story in Somaliland Times:
Mandera, Somaliland, March 3, 2007 (SL Times) – In a Kafkaesque turn of events, Haatuf journalists were finally brought to what was supposed to be a trial on March 1, 2007. The choice of the word “supposed” is deliberate because no trial actually took place.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, February 24, 2007 (SL Times) – The President of Somaliland Dahir Rayale Kahin in a meeting held last Wednesday in his office with the Somaliland Journalists Association (SOLJA) stated that his government was fully committed to observing the Press Law and he is willing to pardon the Haatuf journalists who are in Mandera prison, if they are found guilty by the court handling their case.
New York, February 14, 2007 – The National Union of Somali Journalists is deeply concerned the situation of detained Haatuf journalists following the resignation of a member of the two lawyers of the imprisoned media people, who are behind the bars in the 6 th week. The three personnel of the Haatuf Media Network, Yusuf Abdi Gabobe (Managing Editor), Ali Abdi Dini (Editor in chief) and Mohammed Omar (Borama reporter) were transferred to Mandhera detention centre, near port town of Barbara. Another Haatuf journalist is also charged in absentia.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, February 17, 2007 (SL Times) - The Somaliland Supreme Court issued a court injunction last Wednesday against the Hargeysa Regional Court from continuing Haatuf journalist's trial proceedings until the Supreme Court reaches a verdict on the appeal submitted by the defense lawyers of the Haatuf journalists.
Paris, February 7, 2007 – Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its appeal to the authorities in the northern breakaway state of Somaliland to release three newspaper journalists who have been held for several weeks and have just been moved from the Somaliland capital of Hargeisa to a provincial prison.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, February 3, 2007 (SL Times) – SNM veterans called on the government to release the detained Haatuf journalists on Thursday.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, February 3, 2007 (SL Times) – Two ex-combatants who fought for the Somali National Movement's liberation struggle against Somalia's late dictator Siyad Barre in the 1980s, were arrested in Hargeysa by the Somaliland police.
London, February 2, 2007 – Three journalists employed by Somaliland's independent Haatuf Media Network have been arrested and charged as a result of their work. Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their right to peaceful freedom of expression.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, January 27, 2007 (SL Times) – Prominent traditional leaders of the Sa’ad Musse clan have condemned what they call attempts by Somaliland president Rayale to involve the clan system in the case of detained Haatuf newspaper journalists.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, 27 January 2007 (SL Times) - Haatuf Newspaper’s series of articles alleging corruption by President Dahir Rayale and his wife Huda Barkhad were published in 17 different editions starting from November 24, 2006. The last piece appeared on January 2, 2007, and in the same day Haatuf publisher Yusuf A. Gabobe and editor Ali Abdi Dini were arrested in connection with these articles.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, January 27, 2007 (SL Times) – Lawyers defending Haatuf journalists who have been held in detention since early this month by Somaliland’s CID said, the Chief of CID Suleiman Muse Hassan has denied visitation to their clients.
The raid of Haatuf newspaper premises
The Republic of Somaliland has a free and thriving press, but this is often marred by the occasional detention of journalists 1 on the orders of the government or its regional representatives.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, January 20, 2007 (SL Times) – The Somaliland’s House of the Representative’s select committee on Judicial affairs on Thursday held a hearing in which the chairman of the Supreme Court, Mohamed Hirsi Omane was questioned with regard to a Hargeysa Regional Court ruling that allowed 3 detained Journalists from the Haatuf Newspaper to be prosecuted under the penal code of Somalia instead of the country’s press law
Paris, 18 January 2007
Dear Mr. President,
Justice has played very little role in what has happened with the newspaper Haatuf. Ever since the arrest of Yusuf Abdi Gabobe and Ali Abdi Dini, the entire case has been marked by unfairness, procedural irregularities, personal revenge and the denial of democratic principles.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, January 20, 2007 (SL Times) – A group of journalists led by the Secretary General of Somaliland's Society for Independent Journalists and Writers visited five youth who were sentenced to six months imprisonment by the regional Hargeysa Security Committee last week for taking part in the Hargeysa demonstration, which happened on Jan. 8, 2007.
The New York based CPJ
New York, January 18, 2007—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the ruling by a court in the northern breakaway republic of Somaliland on Wednesday to try three jailed journalists under archaic criminal laws in connection with a story critical of the president.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, January 13, 2007 (SL Times) – Haatuf Media Network (HMN) chairman/editor of Somaliland Times Yusuf Abdi Gabobe and the editor of the Somali language Haatuf newspaper, Ali Abdi Dini appeared for their first Hargeysa Regional Court hearing last Thursday.
Hargeysa, Somaliland, January 13, 2007 (SL Times) – Mr. Kayse Ahmed Osman, a close friend of the detained Haatuf Media network journalists, Yusuf Abdi Gabobe and Ali Abdi Dini was arrested while visiting the detained journalists inside the CID Hargeysa compound on Friday, 12/01/07.
Hargeysa, Somaliland. Jan 6, 2007, (SL Times) – Forty heavily armed police and C.I.D officers stormed the offices of Haatuf Media Network (HMN) on Tuesday afternoon and arrested the chairman of HMN, Mr Yusuf Abdi Gabobe who is also the editor of Somaliland Times and the editor of the Somali language Haatuf daily newspaper, Mr Ali Abdi Dini and the chief accountant for HMN, Mr. Hussein Khalif Abdullahi who sustained minor injuries while being arrested. Mr. Hussien Khalif was released 3 hours later.
New York, January 3, 2007-Police in the northern self-declared republic of Somaliland stormed the offices of the Somali-language daily Haatuf late Tuesday and seized two journalists over an article alleging corruption by the president’s wife, according to local media reports and local journalists. Managing editor Yusuf Abdi Gabobe and editor Ali Abdi Dini have been held for questioning at the offices of the Criminal Investigation Department in Hargeysa
Paris January 4, 2007, -Reporters Without Borders has condemned the arrests of journalists in recent days in the northern breakaway state of Somaliland.