Africa Media Development Foundation (AMDF) expresses displeasure and condemns the the unfair trial and sentencing of Libyan photojournalist Ismail Bouzriba Al-Zoui.

Ismail Al-Zoui was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a military court in Benghazi on May 2020 after 20 months in pretrial detention.

The photojournalist was arrested after authorities searched his phone and found content critical of the General Command and the Dignity military operation.

Reports say the journalist was denied access to his relatives and lawyer since his detention in 2018, and they only found out about his sentence few weeks later.

In a joint press statement published by  Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Libyan Institute for Investigative Journalism and other bodies signed a joint press statement calling for the release of Al-Zoui.

“Ismail Al-Zoui was arrested in December 2018 by internal security services of the city of Ajdabiya and has been arbitrarily detained since then for 20 months in a military prison in Benghazi. The photojournalist was prevented from contacting his relatives and lawyer, he was not presented to the prosecution with his lawyer in attendance during the entire period of his pre-trial detention. Furthermore, he was not informed of the date of his sentencing hearing and his trial was held in absentia. The violations of due process make a mockery of the trial and indicate the verdict against him was decided in advance”, reads the statement.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSML) in a tweet says it is concerned that the detention and trial appear to violate Libya’s laws as well as its international obligations on the right to a fair trial and the right to freedom of opinion and expression. UNSMIL further called for the immediate release of the journalist.

The statement further reads “Ismail Al-Zoui’s arbitrary arrest and detention, during which he was unable to contact his family and lawyer, and resulting in his recent unjust sentencing, indicates several serious violations of the right to a fair trial safeguarded under Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and General Comment No. 13 of the Human Rights Committee, notably with regards to the establishment of a military court or other special judicial bodies, in addition to violating articles 7 and 26 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights”.

AMDF strongly condemns the violation of the rights of Ismail Bouzriba Al-Zoui, and demands the immediate release of the journalist.

As an organization, with the vision for a just and informed society ushered in by free media, communication and knowledge sharing, we are strongly against any act which violates human rights and the freedom of speech and expression, especially against journalists.

We call on Libyan authorities to obey the rights of all journalists and ensure safety of journalists who are constantly in the line of duty.

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