A leading press freedom organisation has called for the release from prison of a doctor sentenced to six months by a Kurdish judge for writing an medical article about sodomy.

Adel Hussein was convicted of offending public decency with his article in newspaper Hawlati and sentenced on November 24th in the city of Arbil, the capital of Kurdish-controlled Iraq.

Reporters Without Borders said:

“Sexual practices are part of the individual freedoms that a democratic state is supposed to promote and protect.

“Furthermore, Hussein did not defend homosexuality. He limited himself to describing a form of behaviour from a scientific viewpoint.

“We are astonished to learn that a press case has been tried under the criminal code.

“What was the point of adopting – and then liberalising – a press code in the Kurdistan region if people who contribute to the news media are still be tried under more repressive laws?”

RWB said Dr Hussein, a member of the Union of Kurdish Journalists and local TV presenter, 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.

He was fined 125,000 dinars (£72) in addition to his jail term.

The predominantly Kurdish region of northern Iraq, referred to as Kurdistan, is autonomous and has its own unicameral parliament.

In the rest of Iraq the deteriorating situation for gay and lesbian people has been documented by human rights groups.

A UN report in 2007 highlighted attacks on gays by militants and religious courts, supervised by clerics, where homosexuals allegedly would be ‘tried,’ ‘sentenced’ to death and then executed.

“Violence against gays has intensified sharply since late 2005, when Iraq’s leading Shiite Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa, or religious decree, which declared that gays and lesbians should be ‘killed in the worst, most severe way possible,” said Alli HIli of Iraqi LGBT.

“Since then, LGBT people have been specifically targeted by the Madhi Army, the militia of fundamentalist Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, as well as by the Badr organisation and other Shia death squads.”