A press freedom group, Reporters Without Borders, has called for the release of a doctor who was sentenced to six months in prison in Iraq for writing an article about homosexuality for the independent weekly Hawlati.

He was found guilty of offending public decency under article 403 of the criminal code on 24 November in the Kurdish city of Erbil.

“Sexual practices are part of the individual freedoms that a democratic state is supposed to promote and protect,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Furthermore, Hussein did not defend homosexuality. He limited himself to describing a form of behaviour from a scientific viewpoint.”

Currently held in the main prison in Erbil (330 km north of Baghdad), Hussein was prosecuted as a result of a complaint brought by the city’s public prosecutor over a scientific article published in April 2007 that detailed the physical effects of sodomy. As well as getting a six-month jail term, he was fined 125,000 dinars (85 euros).

A member of the Union of Kurdish Journalists, Hussein often writes articles for the local press and hosts a programme on Newroz TV.

Tareq Fateh, one of Hawlati’s editors, told Reporters Without Borders the sentence was unfair. “Sex education articles should not be judged according to the standards of public decency,” he said.

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