Ethiopian Court Acquit Bloggers Of Terrorism Charges


Ethiopian bloggers were acquitted of terrorism charges after 18 months in jail, a case widely condemned by rights groups as an assault on press freedom. The bloggers were accused of planning attacks and collaborating with US-based opposition group Ginbot 7, labelled a terrorist organisation by Ethiopian authorities.

“They shouldn’t have stayed in prison for so long – 539 days – in fact, they shouldn’t have been prosecuted in the first place,” defence lawyer Amha Mekonnen said on Friday after the court ruling.

“The court said all the evidence presented was very weak to prove they were planning any kind of terrorism – the court connected their writings to freedom of expression,” Mekonnen said.

Three of the jailed – Atnaf Berhane, Abel Wabella and Natnail Feleke – were said to be freed from custody on Friday. But another journalist, Befekadu Hailu, while being acquitted of terrorism charges, remained in custody on charges of inciting violence, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 10 years.