Ethiopian Court Demands Justification for Journalist’s Conviction(VOA)

November 24th, 2012 Print Print Email Email

ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopia’s Federal Supreme Court has postponed hearing an appeal of the conviction of prominent Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage. But the court gave its first indication Thursday that charges brought by prosecutors under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation may not be that strong by demanding that prosecutors justify the June convictions.

Journalist Eskinder Nega received an 18-year sentence, while opposition politician Andualem Arage is serving life in prison on terrorism-related charges.

Andualem’s lawyer, Abebe Guta, said the court has found many irregularities in the prosecution’s charges.

“As they scrutinized our ground of appeal they found so many legal and factual irregularities,” said Abebe. “Therefore, before the ruling passes, that means before our appeal is accepted or approved, they wanted to summon the prosecution officers to come and justify.”

Maran Turner, the executive director of Freedom Now, a Washington D.C.- based organization that works on individual prisoners of conscience cases, said the latest developments are positive. Freedom Now has been supporting Eskinder and brought his case before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“It seems to me that the court also is confounded by the charges against Eskinder and the other defendants,” Turner said. “So the fact that the court has postponed the case, it obviously acknowledges the flaws that we see, which is that the charges themselves are flawed. In fact, the case is flawed from the very beginning of arrest.”

Eskinder, Anualem and more than 20 others were found guilty of ties to a U.S.-based opposition group, Ginbot 7, classified as a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government.

Amnesty International and other rights advocacy groups have said the trial was a sham used to silence dissent.

The prosecution will need to justify its convictions before the court on December 19.

  1. Sam
    | #1

    Does the Ethiopian Supreme Court have a say in interpreting the law without government interference? Personally, I do not believe that to be the case. Does the Supreme Court fell free to not rubber-stump the government’s wish after the demise of Meles? I do not feel again that to be the case. In fact, the new Prime Minster sounded like Meles when asked about the incarceration of Eskinder and others. He just said they were terrorists, and they deserved what they got. Why then the Supreme Court asked the prosecutors to “justify the June convictions” of those accused of Anti-Terrorism law? There might be another reason. Freedom Now brought the case of Eskinder to the United Nations. Does the Ethiopian government fear that the United Nations might blame the Ethiopian government for using the “Anti-Terrorism law” to silence oppositions? I believe that to be the case. A government which highly depends on Foreign Aid for its own survival might not antagonize United Nations if the government wishes the aid to come in. In this secanario, it is reasonable to say the Supreme Court might have gotten the OK from the Ethiopian government to question the prosequtor’s “justification.” Everything that EPDRF does has a political angle. It is unwise then to say the EPDRF politcos might have been suprised by the Supreme Court asking “justification.” Does this mean Eskinder and others might be free soon? That depends on the cost and benefit analysis that EPDRF does. Do not forget EPDRF incarcerate people knowing that its going to release them. When the EPDRF politicos incarcerated the “Kinjit” politicos in 2005, they knew they are going to release them. But they have to get a political capital out of their release. They were coerced to say they were wrong. And encouraged to leave the country after their release. opposition parties and their supporters tired one-line that says ” the EPDRF politcos are ignorant” cannot be further from the truth. EPDRF is a party that became efficent in manipulating events for its own survival, and forget the people and the country, which comes a distant second and third.

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