- Both the woman and the journalist were sentenced to a year in prison last month
- A lower court said the woman made false rape accusations and insulted the government
- Human Rights Watch calls for the journalist to be let go
A Somali appeals court has cleared a woman who accused security forces of raping her but upheld the conviction of a journalist who interviewed her.
The judge said that journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur Ibrahim had disrespected the country's law, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a Sunday statement, noting that it was unclear exactly what law he broke. His one-year sentence was cut to six months.
"The court acquitted a woman who should never have been charged while upholding an unjust conviction of a journalist," said Daniel Bekele, the group's Africa director. "After this case, who in their right mind would suggest to a victim of government abuse that they report the crime? Or tell their story to a journalist?"
Both the woman and the journalist were sentenced to one year in prsion by a lower court last month. That court ruled the 27-year-old woman made false rape accusations against security forces during an interview, and in so doing insulted the government.
The journalist was found guilty of fabricating a false claim, though he never filed a story, according to rights groups.
The alleged rape took place in August.
"The government has argued that justice should run its course in this case, but each step has been justice denied," Bekele said. "Quashing the case and unconditionally releasing Abdiaziz Abdinur will show that this government is ready to focus on protecting freedom of expression and encouraging victims of sexual violence to come forward."
The case has sparked international condemnation, prompting Somalia to launch an independent human rights commission. Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said the commission will investigate.
"Respect for women's rights and media freedom are fundamental to ensuring the development of a strong, stable and vibrant democracy in Somalia," the White House said in a statement last month. "Women should be able to seek justice for rape and other gender-based violence without fear of retribution, and journalists in Somalia must be free to work without being subjected to violence and harassment."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called on Somalia to ensure that the journalist and the woman get a fair trial, including the right of appeal.