Ethiopia frees journalist Temesgen Desalegn


Men read newspapers in the old Mercato (market) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.



Journalist Temesgen Desalegn walked out of prison Tuesday night after the Ethiopian government dropped all charges against him.

The newspaper editor – who spent time in solitary confinement after losing a bail hearing Friday – faced charges of defamation, inciting violence and spreading false information.

“The prosecution has told me that they have withdrawn the charges,” government spokesperson Shimeles Kemal told Agence France-Presse.

Desalegn is editor of the weekly Feteh, which hasn’t published since the government reacted negatively to the July 20 issue.

The government disapproved of Feteh’s reporting about Muslim protests in the capital of Addis Ababa and health of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died Aug. 20.

The sudden decision to drop the charges came as a surprise to Desalegn himself.

He told Voice of America that no reason was given.

“They simply took me out of prison,” Desalegn told VOA. “I asked them why the charges have been dropped, but they said nothing.”

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Charges have also been dropped against the newspaper’s publisher, VOA said, but that might not be enough for Feteh to resume publication.

However, defense lawyer Mola Zegeya told VOA he was speaking with the publisher about new issues.

“I do expect that it is going to be published because the judge refused the [government] request to stop the publishing of the paper,” the lawyer said, according to VOA.

International groups like the United Nations and Amnesty International have criticized Ethiopia for its tight controls on public information, Bloomberg News said.

Under Zenawi’s rule, Ethiopia has prosecuted several journalists, including sentencing a blogger to 18 years and two Swedes to 11 years on terrorism charges.

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