Mogadishu - A Somali judge jailed a woman who said she had been raped by soldiers and a journalist who interviewed her, finding them guilty of making up the story to besmirch the government.

The verdict and one-year jail sentences drew condemnation from Somalia’s union of journalists. Human rights groups have called the trial politically motivated, aimed at covering up rampant sexual abuse of women by the security forces.

“They fabricated a story to hurt the government,” Judge Ahmed Aden said in court.

The judge suspended the sentence of Luul Ali Osman, 27, until after she had stopped breastfeeding her baby. Freelance journalist Abdiaziz Abdinur was to begin his jail sentence immediately.

During the trial, the judge refused to hear the evidence of three witnesses who intended to testify in defence of Osman and Abdinur. The National Union of Somali Journalists described the trial as an attack on press freedom.

It expressed shock that Abdinur was also convicted of entering Osman's house without her husband's permission, even though that was not one of the charges against him.

Osman and Abdinur intend to appeal.

Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid promised on Sunday to reform Somalia's armed forces and the judiciary once the trial had concluded, acknowledging “deep-seated problems” with both institutions. – Reuters