Ethiopian Opposition Leader, Journalist to Face Terrorism Charge
(Bloomberg) An Ethiopian opposition leader and a journalist will have to defend terrorism charges that carry the maximum sentence of death, a judge said.
Andualem Arage of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party, journalist Eskinder Nega, and six others will begin their defense on March 5, Federal High Court judge, Endeshaw Adane, said today in the capital, Addis Ababa. They are accused of having links with the banned U.S.-based Ginbot 7 group and the Horn of Africa nation’s neighbor, Eritrea.
“I am innocent,” Eskinder said to reporters as he left court. “I am not of the opposition. I am not G7.”
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government is using a 2009 anti-terrorism law to silence critical journalists and politicians, according to London-based Amnesty International.
Since March, at least 108 opposition party members and six journalists have been arrested for alleged involvement with terrorist groups, it said in a report last month.
A further 16 people, including Ginbot 7 leader Berhanu Nega and exiled journalists Abiye Teklemariam, Mesfin Negash and Abebe Gallaw are being tried in absentia.
The court dismissed an argument from Andualem that a state media campaign against them made a fair hearing impossible, Endeshaw said.