Ethiopia: Journalist Eskinder Nega convicted of terrorism


In Ethiopia Skype and internet Tor users could get up to 15 years in prison in an effort by the government to control online activity.


Josep Lago

Eskinder Nega, a well-known Ethiopian journalist, is among 24 people found guilty of terrorism charges by a court in Ethiopia.

Eskinder, opposition member Andualem Arage and the 22 others had been accused of links to outlawed groups including the US-based Ginbot 7, a political party considered a terrorist organization under Ethiopian law, Agence France-Presse reported.

Both Eskinder and Andualem were today found guilty of "participation in a terrorist organization" and "planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement and attempt of (a) terrorist act," AFP said.

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Judge Endeshaw Adane said Eskinder abused his freedom of speech, and accused him of threatening national security, AFP said. While under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism laws the defendants face the death sentence, the prosecutor recommended life sentences.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the conviction of Eskinder, calling the charges "baseless and politically-motivated in reprisal for his writings."

According to the CPJ, police arrested Eskinder in September 2011 after he published an online article that questioned arrests under the country's anti-terrorism legislation. Other evidence against Eskinder included his discussions of whether last year's Arab Spring uprisings could spread to Ethiopia.

"The Ethiopian government has once again succeeded in misusing the law to silence critical and independent reporting," the CPJ's Africa advocacy coordinator Mohamed Keita said in a statement. "This conviction reiterates that Ethiopia will not hesitate to punish a probing press by imprisoning journalists or pushing them into exile."

Amnesty International said the men were found guilty on "trumped up" terrorism and treason charges.

"This is a dark day for justice in Ethiopia, where freedom of expression is being systematically destroyed by a government targeting any dissenting voice," Claire Beston, Amnesty's Ethiopia researcher, said in a statement.

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