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» 28.05.2003 - Djiboutian editor still detained

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Djiboutian editor released provisionally

afrol News, 5 June - Djiboutian newspaper editor Daher Ahmed Farah has been released provisionally. The outspoken editor and opposition leader faces charges of libelling army leaders.

Daher Ahmed Farah, editor of the newspaper 'Le Renouveau' and head of the opposition party Movement for Democratic Renewal and Development (Mouvement pour le renouveau démocratique et le développement, MRD), was released on 3 June 2003 from Gabode prison in Djibouti.

He had been detained there since 20 April on a charge of libelling the army's chief of staff, General Zakaria Cheik Ibrahim. Mr Ibrahim had sued Mr Farah for libel because of an article on 6 March accusing the army of lacking "neutrality" and saying the armed forces "should be apolitical."

Farah yesterday told Reporters sans frontières (RSF) that the judicial authorities had finally granted his request for provisional release. RSF has been campaigning for his release.

An investigating judge now was to decide in the coming days whether to dismiss the charge against the editor or send the case to trial. Mr Farah said he was held in solitary confinement in a small cell, which he could not leave, and that only his mother was allowed to visit him.

A few days after his arrest, the Djibouti special police went to Mr 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.

An application for provisional release had been made by Stéphane Zerbib, of the organisation Lawyers Without Borders, who visited Djibouti from 26 to 30 May, at RSF's request, to defend Mr Farah. No Djiboutian lawyer wanted to be associated to the editor.

Mr Farah has been jailed several times in the last few years. In most cases, he was charged with violating the press law and handed a prison sentence or fine. On 15 March, he was detained for one day and fined for "undermining the army's morale".

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