ADDIS ABABA: Anger and frustration are taking center stage here in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, after blogger Eskinder Nega saw his appeal fail and will head to jail. The court dismissed the appeal from the blogger and opposition leader Andualem Arage, who were imprisoned last year on what supporters say are trumped-up terrorism charges.
“The sentencing is still correct so there is no reduction,” said Supreme Court judge Dagne Melaku, confirming the blogger’s jail term of 18 years and Arage’s life sentence.
One of the charges – serving as a leader of a terrorist organization – was dropped, but had no affect on sentencing.
After the ruling, Nega made an emotional appeal to the court which was crowded with family, friends and diplomats.
“The truth will set us free,” he said. “We want the Ethiopian public to know that the truth will reveal itself, it’s only a matter of time.” Both men are accused of links to the outlawed opposition group Ginbot 7.
Activists close by the court told Bikyanews.com that they were “angry beyond belief.
“I just want to over to the court and burn it down,” said one activist, a 24-year-old university student. “We are supposed to become a better country and more open and tolerant, but we are not really. It is horrible.”
Last month, Freedom Now, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found the government of Ethiopia’s continued detention of independent Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega a “violation of international law.”
The panel of five independent experts from four continents held that the government violated Mr. Nega’s rights to free expression and due process. The UN Working Group called for his immediate release.
Nega is serving an 18-year prison sentence on terror and treason charges in response to his online articles and public speeches about the Arab Spring and the possible impact of such movements on the political situation in Ethiopia. Arrested in September 2011, Nega was “held without charge or access to an attorney for nearly two months before authorities charged him under Ethiopia’s widely criticized anti-terror laws. This is the eighth time during his 20-year career as an independent journalist and publisher that the Ethiopian government has detained Mr. Nega.”
“The Ethiopian government cannot continue to use anti-terrorism legislation to muzzle the work of independent journalists, even when it does not like what is being reported,” said Freedom Now Executive Director Maran Turner. “The targeting of journalists by resorting to overly broad anti-terror laws, just like the use of anti-state charges in the pre-9/11 era, is a violation of the internationally protected right to free expression and undermines international efforts to address real security threats.”