MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — The Somali government has charged a woman who has said she was raped by security forces, according to an international human rights group, which says the case is politically motivated.
The group said a journalist who interviewed her was also charged.
Human Rights Watch said three other people including the woman's husband were charged with assisting the alleged rape victim to evade investigators. The rights group said in a statement Wednesday that Somali government should drop the politically motivated charges.
The woman was charged in Mogadishu court Tuesday of insulting a government body, inducing false evidence, simulating a criminal offense and making a false accusation while journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur has been charged with insulting a government body and inducing the woman to give false evidence.
Under the Somali penal code Abdinur faces up to four years in prison for the first charge and two years for the second. The charges against the woman carry punishments of up to three and six years respectively, according to Human Rights Watch.
Rights groups say the arrests are linked to an increase in media attention due to reports of the high prevalence of rape and other sexual violence in Somalia, including attacks allegedly committed by security forces.
"Bringing charges against a woman who alleges rape makes a mockery of the new Somali government's priorities," said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
Rape is rampant in Mogadishu, where tens of thousands of people who fled last year's famine live in poorly protected camps. Government troops are often blamed.
"The police 'investigation' in this case was a politically motivated attempt to blame and silence those who report on the pervasive problem of sexual violence by Somali security forces," Bekele said.
Attempts to contact officials from the Somali government for comment were unsuccessful. Most government officials evaded calls and questions from an Associated Press reporter.
Human rights watch said the woman's husband and a man and woman who helped introduce her to the journalist were charged with assisting the alleged victim to evade investigation, which carries up to a four-year term, and assisting her to secure a profit for the rape allegation, carrying up to a five-year term.
The charge sheet indicates that the government believes there was a conspiracy to discredit it and somehow acquire financial gain, the rights group said in a statement.
The rights group says the charges the five face stem from a January 8 interview between Abdinur and the woman about her rape allegations. Abdinur did not report the story to any media outlet.
Human rights watch says on Jan 10, he was called to report to the Somali Central Investigations Department of the police and when he did, was detained without charge.
Since then he had been interrogated repeatedly and his home was searched, the rights group said. It said the woman retracted her claim after being interrogated for two days by the police without legal counsel; the police then publicly presented her to the media. She was released but her husband was detained in her stead. Credible local sources say it was for insisting that his wife had been raped, Human Rights Watch said.