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UN calls on Mozambique to free journalist Amade Abubacar

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The authorities in Mozambique must immediately free journalist Amade Abubacar and investigate allegations that he has been ill-treated, United Nations human rights experts said today.

Abubacar was arrested in Macomia, Cabo Delgado, on 5 January and spent 13 days incommunicado in a military base in Mueda, before being handed back to the police in Macomia. On Thursday he was transferred to prison in the provincial capital of Pemba, according to Angel Quintal of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

“We are gravely concerned by this alleged arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment, which appears to be directly related to Mr. Abubacar’s work as a journalist and which could have a chilling effect on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in Mozambique,” UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, David Kaye, and the Chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, Seong-Phil Hong, said in a statement published on Friday.

A request by his lawyer for provisional release was rejected by the Macomia district judicial court on 18 January. Abubacar has now been charged with violations of the country’s penal code, “raising significant concerns about the criminalizing of reporting in Mozambique”, they added.

Amade is facing charges of “violating state secrecy by means of IT, and incitement to criminal activity using IT,” MISA-Mozambique, the local chapter of regional press freedom body the Media Institute of Southern Africa said on Wednesday, which, the organisation said, means the state is accusing him of espionage on behalf of terrorist groups who have been attacking Cabo Delgado villages since October 2017.

The evidence against Abubacar consists of the fact he has a notebook containing the names of some suspected insurgents, and that he was conducting journalistic work without being directed to do so by his employer, the state local radio network ICS.

MISA-Mozambique also said there is a “strong possibility that during the 13 days that he was detained in a military barracks, the journalist could have been forced, under threat of torture, to confess to crimes he did not commit.” MISA have sent a lawyer to Pemba to represent Amade.

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