Quantcast
Connect with us

Ethiopia files terrorism charges against journalists and ‘Zone Nine’ bloggers

Published

on

Addis Ababa (AFP) – A group of Ethiopian bloggers and journalists detained for nearly three months have been charged with terrorism for having links to an outlawed group and for planning attacks, a judge said Friday.

The seven members of the blogging collective Zone Nine and three journalists were arrested in April, prompting an outcry from rights groups who said the case was an assault on press freedom.

ADVERTISEMENT

The group is accused of planning attacks in Ethiopia and working in collusion with the US-based opposition group Ginbot 7, labelled by Ethiopian authorities as a terrorist organisation.

“They took training in how to make explosives and planned to train others,” Judge Tareke Alemayehu told the court.

The Zone Nine website, proclaiming “we blog because we care,” features mostly social and political commentary, often critical of the government.

The judge said their work was a cover for “clandestine” activities and accused them of plotting “to destabilise the nation”.

Nine of the accused — one is charged in absentia — smiled and waved to friends and family as they entered the packed courtroom.

ADVERTISEMENT

The lawyer for eight of the suspects dismissed the charges.

“We don’t believe that there is any credible substance,” Amaha Mekonnen told AFP.

– Not ‘going to escape’ –

ADVERTISEMENT

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn delivered a stark warning Friday to anyone linked to terrorist groups hours after the charges were laid.

“Anyone who is seen and acting within this terrorist network… will be eligible for the course of law,” Hailemariam told reporters.

ADVERTISEMENT

“When you put yourself into this network and you try to become a blogger, don’t think that you are going to escape from the Ethiopian government,” he added.

But the United States voiced concern about the decision to press charges and warned against “using anti-terrorism laws as a mechanism to curb the free exchange of ideas.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also called on the Ethiopian government “to ensure that the trial is fair, transparent and in compliance with Ethiopia’s constitutional guarantees and international human rights obligations.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Human Rights Watch (HRW) slammed the decision, accusing Ethiopia of making a “mockery of its own judicial system,” according to deputy Africa director Leslie Lefkow.

“Hiding behind an abusive anti-terrorism law to prosecute bloggers and journalists for doing their jobs is an affront to the Ethiopian constitution,” she told AFP.

Meanwhile, Hailemariam defended the controversial extradition of Ginbot 7 leader Andargachew Tsige, arrested last month while transiting through Yemen’s Sanaa airport.

“It’s legal and it is legitimate… this guy has been sentenced sometime before he was captured so I think we will continue on according to the sentence that has been given,” he said, but did not confirm the death sentence would be carried out.

ADVERTISEMENT

According to Ethiopian law, the president determines whether the death sentence will be carried out, not the prime minister.

HRW accuses Ethiopia of using the anti-terrorism laws to silence dissent and jail critics.

Several journalists have been jailed under the law, including two Swedish journalists sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2012. They were pardoned after serving 15 months.

The dissident blogger Eskinder Nega is currently serving an 18-year sentence for having links with Ginbot 7, which calls for the violent overthrow of the ruling party.

ADVERTISEMENT

The trial for the bloggers and journalists is expected to resume on August 4.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump continues pushing conspiracy theories about Joe Scarborough — immediately after reporter tells him about widower begging him to stop

Published

on

At Tuesday's White House press briefing, President Donald Trump was asked by reporters if he was aware of the letter from the widower of deceased congressional aide Lori Klausutis, begging the president to stop promoting conspiracy theories that she had been murdered by former representative and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.

The president replied, "Yeah I have." However, almost immediately after, he used the moment to continue pushing the conspiracy theory, adding, "As you know, there's no statute of limitations."

Asked if he's seen the distressed letter from the widower of Lori Klausutis about Trump turning her death into fodder, Trump says "yeah I have," then continues propagating his conspiracy nonsense, then says, "As you know, there's no statute of limitations."

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Trump tells a reporter to take off coronavirus mask and stop being ‘politically correct’

Published

on

At Tuesday's White House coronavirus press briefing, President Donald Trump got into an argument with Reuters correspondent Jeff Mason, when he commanded him to take off his protective face mask.

Mason refused to do so, at which point Trump mocked him, saying "You want to be politically correct."

Trump also repeated a line previously made by his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, asking why former Vice President Joe Biden wore a mask when he was in public but not standing close to anyone, when he wasn't wearing a mask at home with his wife right next to him.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

DOJ dropping investigation into GOP senator’s stock trades ignites outrage: ‘Quid pro quo, baby’

Published

on

On Tuesday, the Justice Department ended its investigation into three senators accused of insider trading, including Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), all of whom sold stocks around the time they were receiving classified hearings on the coronavirus pandemic. Their investigation against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), however, continues.

There are some differences between the Burr case and the others, including that Burr admits to having ordered the trades himself whereas Loeffler says a financial adviser made the trades without her knowledge.

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image