NAIROBI: Somali police have charged five people including a journalist and a woman allegedly raped by government troops in a case dismissed by rights groups as "politically motivated", the United Nations said Friday.
Freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinuur, who works for several Somali radio stations as well as international media, was detained without charge on January 10 in the capital Mogadishu after researching rampant sexual violence in Somalia.
On Tuesday, he was charged with "offending the honour of a state institution and for filing a false report", the UN political office for Somalia said in a statement.
The woman, "who reported having been the victim of a rape, has also been charged with false reporting and for offending the honour of a state institution," it added, noting three others have also been charged.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) say the three other charged are her husband, and a man and woman who helped introduce her to the journalist.
The reporter faced up to six years in prison, while the woman faces jail for up to nine years. The trial is due to open on Saturday.
The UN added that it "has raised concerns that the handling of the pre-trial phase, in particular that the prolonged detention and the (now remedied) lack of access to legal counsel could negatively impact" the trial.
Amnesty International, HRW and the Committee to Protect Journalists have said the case is "linked to increasing media attention given to the high levels of rape... including attacks allegedly committed by security forces."
Somalia, which has been ravaged by relentless conflict since 1991, chose a new government in September in a United Nations-backed process, ending eight years of transitional rule by a corruption-riddled government.
Many have hailed the new government for offering hope it will give the country its first effective central government since the fall of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud this week visited the European Union, issuing a joint statement Friday with the bloc's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton claiming that "a new Somalia is defying the cynicism of outsiders."
Somalia needs "a justice system offering fair access to all", the statement said, warning that "without security for every Somali citizen there will not be the rule of law and the space for economic development".
But HRW's Daniel Bekele warned that "bringing charges against a woman who alleges rape makes a mockery" of the new Somali government's priorities.
"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," he added.