Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that four members of the Zone 9 blogging collective who have been held since April 2014 have just been acquitted on a charge of terrorism.
One of the four, Befekadu Hailu, will nonetheless remain in detention on a charge of “inciting violence” in his blog posts, which were very critical of the government. Reporters Without Borders deplores this additional charge, which carries a possible three-year jail term. The other three, Atnaf Berane, Abel Wabella and Natnail Feleke are due to be released shortly.
The Addis Ababa court also acquitted a fifth blogger, Soleyana Gebremichael, who fled to the United States and who was tried in absentia.
Explaining the acquittals, the court said criticizing the government did not constitute terrorism.
“We are relieved that Atnaf Berane, Abel Wabella, Natnail Feleke and Soleyana Gebremichael have finally been found innocent,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk.
“These bloggers should never have been arrested and, even more so, should never have spent 539 days in preventive detention. We urge the judicial authorities to compensate them for the effects of their unjustified detention. We also call on the judicial authorities to pursue their reasoning to its logical conclusion and to drop the remaining charge against the last blogger still held.”