Teddy Afro’s attorney and editor of Addis Neger sentenced – Eskinder Nega, Addis Ababa

August 6th, 2008 Print Print Email Email

Judge Luel Gebremariam sentenced Teddy Afro’s defense attorney Milllion Assefa, to a month and twenty days imprisonment, while also imposing a suspended one month imprisonment on the editor of Addis Neger, Mesfin Negash. (more…)

Judge Luel Gebremariam sentenced Teddy Afro’s defense attorney Milllion Assefa, to a month and twenty days imprisonment, while also imposing a suspended one month imprisonment on the editor of Addis Neger, Mesfin Negash.

The sentencing was for a news report that appeared on the July 26 issue of Addis Neger, which carried a story about the controversial trial of Teddy Afro. The story quoted the defendant’s attorney, Million Assefa, who spoke of his intention to press charges against the presiding judge at the judicial administration commission; which screens the judiciary. The defendant’s attorney deemed the last ruling by the court ,which mandated for the continuation of the trial after the finale of the dubious evidences presented by the state prosecutor, as illegal.

The judge conceded that the statement was made out of court and that disciplinary complaints could be filed against him, but insisted that both his and the court’s reputations have been compromised.

Judge Leul also chastised and imposed the suspended sentence on Mesfin Negash, even though he and two other journalists, Abiy Teklemariam and Girma Tesfaw, offered an audio recording of the defendant’s attorney interview for evidence.The judge maintained that they are compelled by law not to run the story because “it infringes on the reputation of the court.”

VOA: Judiciary, Press Freedom in Ethiopia Questioned over Singer’s Trial

Listen to Report – Listen (MP3) audio clip

In Ethiopia, the trial of a controversial pop star is raising questions about the independence of the judiciary and of the press. The government has arrested a journalist covering the court hearings and a defense attorney. Both men are expected to appear in court today (Wednesday).

Ethiopia’s rising pop and reggae singer Teddy Afro has been in jail since April. He was charged with a hit and run road accident and remains in jail after being denied bail. Teddy has pleaded non-guilty, and his attorney argues that prosecutors have not presented enough evidence to detain his client.

But as of Monday, the defense attorney, as well as a journalist covering the trial joined the pop singer behind bars.

Mesfin Negash, the editor of a weekly newspaper in the Ethiopian capital could be sentenced to up to six months in prison, if found guilty of contempt of court. Facing the same charges and also in police custody is Teddy Afro’s defense attorney Million Assefa, who was quoted in an article published by the paper.

The judge overseeing the case said the interview constituted interference in the due process of law. He issued a subpoena for their arrest.

One of the editors of the newspaper Dagninet Mekonnen says his paper has done no wrong.

“We have absolute right to publish this material. The content of the interview with Teddy Afro’s lawyer Ato Million Assefa was that he (the attorney) wants to sue the judge for not complying with the right procedures. We have nothing to do with condemning the due process of law at hand.”

New York based Committee to Protect Journalists, the CPJ and Reporters Without Borders criticized the arrest of the journalist in separate statements. CPJ Africa Program research associate Mohamed Keita calls it a systematic way to detain journalists covering sensitive issues.

“It is rather unfortunate that a journalist be detained for essentially interviewing the lawyer of Teddy Afro and essentially doing his job.”

Journalists who were in court yesterday to report the incitement of the attorney and the journalist, said a US Embassy representative was present in the hearing.

Teddy Afro’s high-profile trial has grabbed the attention of many of his fans. Thousands of his followers rally in front of the courthouse whenever he appears in court. Within minutes, the police reportedly break up their demonstrations.

Government-controlled radio stations in Ethiopia have banned songs from Teddy Afro’s third album “yasteseryal”. “yasteseryal” makes an implicit mockery of what it sees as failure of political movements in the country since a socialist military junta overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974.
This tune was particularly popular during Ethiopia’s parliamentary election in 2005. And many say the ban shows the singer is indeed controversial and that his trial is a political gimmick.

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