Surprise ruling against govt—revived treason trial – Sisay Agena, Serkalem Fasil and Eskinder Nega ( Addis Ababa)
The second criminal bench of the federal high court ruled against the government and struck down a request to collect fines imposed against four publishing houses in the treason trial of 2005.
The government lodged a complaint against four publishing houses (Serkalem publishing, Sisay publishing,Fasil publishing and Zekarias publishing), seven months after a presidential amnesty for all those convicted in connection with the 2005 post election riots, asserting that that the pardon does not cover the fines imposed by the court. Serkalem publishing and Sisay publishing appeared before court and petitioned for a rejection of the complaint citing Ethiopia’s pardon proclamation 395/2004, article 231/2 and article 12/6; which stipulate that pardon granted to persons will automatically pertain to monetary fines as well unless it’s clearly stated otherwise, and that if one person in a case applies for pardon it shall be considered that the application for pardon shall be presumed to include all co-defendants.
The court ruled that since the fines were specifically imposed in connection with the conviction of editors owned by the publishing houses, who were pardoned and released from prison, the government does not have the legal ground to pursue the fines as separate cases. This proves that the government was using the case for political vendetta and intimidation against its critics.
We would like to remind all concerned parties that the government is still illegally denying us press licenses, restricting freedom of expression in the country in contravention of both the constitution and the press law. Three years after the crackdown against the free press in 2005, all newspapers shut down (thirteen political newspapers) are still prevented from publishing; adversely affecting the quality and intensity of public discourse. The continued absence of Ethiopia’s fiery free press is one of the most visible reminders that the country has yet to return to normalcy after the post election crises in 2005.