Ethiopia charges journalists with ‘terrorism’(AFP)

July 18th, 2014 Print Print Email Email

Three journalists and seven bloggers, in prison since April, accused of plotting “to destablise the nation”.

A group of Ethiopian bloggers and journalists held in jail for nearly three months have been charged with terrorism for having links to an outlawed group and for planning attacks, a judge said.

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.

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

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

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.

Charges rejected

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

Nine of the accused smiled and waved to friends and family as they entered the packed courtroom. The tenth defendant is being charged in absentia.

The lawyer for eight of the suspects dismissed the charges.

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

Rights groups have accused 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 serving an 18-year sentence for having links with Ginbot 7, which calls for the violent overthrow of the ruling party.

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

  1. Sam
    | #1

    The sad existing life of the Ethiopian government is its own creation. A government that believes to “have created” Ethiopia twenty-three years ago rightfully worries any dissent will unscramble what the EPDRF put together, I repeat, twenty-three years ago: Ethiopia. Accusing dissent as terrorism has become the last hope for the government to crush any dissent. The nine accused will not be the last one to be accused of trumped up charges. Many will face the same accusation because the dissent will not dry up. In fact as life in Ethiopia is becoming a living hell for the majority of Ethiopians, the number of people being accused of as terrorists will significantly will increase. The EPDRF politicians– I do not believe they are ignorant as many believe them to be– by now know ethnic politics is a devise to not unscramble a country along ethnic lines, but a clever devise to sow suspicion among Ethiopians on that same line. The EPDRF politicians know by now the majority of Ethiopians do not buy their political ploy. The government politics has lost steam if it had any to begin with. The last choice the government is relying upon is to use its military and security force to crush any dissent real or imagined. For this very purpose the Ethiopian courts are as reliable as the security is. Ethiopians should by now take to their hearts one political fact: In no time in its governing hours the EPDRF politicians have been comfortable with their own politics. They should not be. It is primitive. As times goes by more Ethiopians will wake up for the devastation that Ethnic politics will introduce for the country. And that very thought is the very reason for the EPDRF politicians to live in paranoid state. And it also true more and more courageous Ethiopians will start speaking up, writing about the imminent danger the country will face up because of the primitive ethnic politics, and it is also true they will be charged with terrorism. When will the repeating cycle will end? Only an answer given by the majority of Ethiopians for that very question is true.

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