(AFP) – ADDIS ABABA — An Ethiopian judge has again delayed the verdict in the case of 24 people charged with terrorism, including a prominent journalist and an opposition member, a defence lawyer said Thursday.
The verdict is now expected to be delivered on June 27, in order to give the judges time to “evaluate and pass a decision”, lawyer Abebe Guta said.
Among those charged are prominent journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition member Andualem Arage. Both appeared in court in suits and smiled and waved to friends and family as they filed into the courtroom.
The courtroom was packed with family members, journalists and diplomats, including US Ambassador Donald Booth.
This is the second time the verdict has been delayed. Judges were expected to deliver a ruling on May 11, but said the defendants’ case had not been transcribed in full.
Eskinder was honoured in New York last month with a “freedom to write” award from the US-based media watchdog PEN.
He was arrested last year after publishing articles asking whether the Arab Spring uprisings could have an influence in Ethiopia and questioning the arrests of Ethiopians under the country’s anti-terrorism law.
He is one of 11 independent journalists and bloggers charged with terrorism since 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which says Ethiopia’s media is one of the most restricted in the world.
Rights groups have accused Ethiopian officials of using anti-terrorism legislation to stifle peaceful dissent.
The 24 on trial were charged with terrorism in September 2011, and could face the death penalty if found guilty.