Reporter in Iraq Jailed for 6 Months Over Story on Homosexuality

International media watchdog groups called Wednesday for the release of a freelance journalist jailed in northern Iraq for violating a public decency law by writing a story about homosexuality.

Adel Hussein was sentenced Nov. 24 to six months in jail by a court in Irbil, capital of the Kurdish-ruled region of northern Iraq, according to the Committee To Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders.

Hussein also was ordered to pay a fine of about $106, the organizations said. He is being held at Mahata prison in Irbil, about 220 miles north of Baghdad.

"We are astonished to learn that a press case has been tried under the criminal code. What was the point of adopting — and then liberalizing — a press code in the Kurdistan region if people who contribute to the news media are still be tried under more repressive laws," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

The case centers on an April 2007 article Hussein wrote for the independent weekly Hawlati that detailed the physical effects of homosexual sex, the organizations said.

The sentence handed down by the Kurdish court was based on an outdated 1969 Iraqi penal code, said Luqman Malazadah, Hussein's lawyer. Malazadah told CPJ he has appealed the court decision.

A new law that took effect in October does not recognize a violation of "public custom," also known as public decency, as an offense, CPJ said.

Under the new law, a representative of the region's Journalist Syndicate must attend a journalist's trial, but Fatih told CPJ no representative attended Hussein's trial.

Irbil's public prosecutor also has filed a lawsuit against Hussein, the magazine's former chief editor Adnan Osman, and the publisher, Tareq Fateh, according to Reporters Without Borders.