EMF – Seven of the 10 bloggers are part of a social media group called Zone 9. The group are mostly young urban professionals known for a fresh and reasoned approach to peaceful change — and who are increasingly well-respected – in an authoritarian nation known for a history of stifling free expression. With elections coming, some say the charges are an easy way for the government to link dissidents to terrorist groups and undermine them.
Here below, EMF published the defense argument by bloggers attorney.
Prepared by the attorney of the defendants
In the first charge the defendants are cited for violating Article 4 of the anti-terrorism law. What described as an alleged act of terrorism in the charge sheet are having a long and a short term goals, participating in trainings, establishing a clandestine organization, expressing their opinion and receiving financial support. However; the charge sheet does not specify which of the seven terrorist acts stipulated in the article 3 of the same anti-terrorism law are committed. In accordance with Article 4 of the anti-terrorism law an act is prosecutable and punishable if they are supported with undisputable evidence and if they are constituted as an element of the crime as stipulated in Article 3 of the proclamation. The statements that are listed in the charge sheet as’ they have willfully joined an undercover enterprise of persons; took part in training; received monetary support are not crimes stipulated in the Article 3 of the proclamation. Hence; this charge signifies serious defects of reasoning, and has incurred incorrect application of the procedural provisions as stated in the Ethiopian law of criminal procedure of article 112.
The activities specified as violations or offenses in the first charge are among the fundamental rights that are protected in Ethiopia’s constitution. According to article 2 of the Ethiopian law of criminal procedure engaging in the activities described as fundamental constitutional rights shall not bring any criminal responsibility. The activities cited as offenses or violations are all fundamental rights to privacy, freedom of thought, freedom opinion and freedom expression and freedom of association as stipulated in Article 26, 29 and 31 of the Ethiopian constitution.
It is mandatory that the judicial, executive and the legislative branches of the Ethiopian government have duties and responsibilities to protect these rights. Additionally, in accordance with the decision of the Court of Cassation on 12th of November 2009, charge sheets must essentially respect these absolutely necessary fundamental constitutional rights. However, in the charge sheet the attorney general/the public prosecutor has tried to present the activities of the accused (participating in trainings, expressing opinion, encrypting their communication, establishing a clandestine organization and receiving financial support) in manner that violated the fundamental constitutional rights of the accused. The attorney general discredits their responsibility and duty to respect and enforce the provisions of the fundamental constitutional rights as stipulated in Article 13 of the Ethiopian constitution. Hence, I argue that, beyond violating the fundamental constitutional rights of the accused the charges are encroachment of the basic procedural rules of the country. Besides; they are illogical in reasoning. Therefore; I ask your honor to grant an outright dismissal to this case.
The details of the crime as they are written in the charge sheet are not understandable. In accordance with the article 111 of the Ethiopian law of criminal procedure the charge sheet must be a core document that describes a crime that has been committed in crisp manner .But the manner in which the charges are written show no compliance with these rules and procedures. In the document that is given as a charge sheet the alleged crimes are presented vaguely. With the exception of the two inadequate references to time (May & August 2012) there is no specific indication of time for the alleged crime. The occasion of the alleged crime and the specific person involved in the alleged crime is never mentioned so that my clients cannot defend themselves accordingly. In essence, I will draw your attention to the following faults and illogical reasoning that are noticeable on the charge sheet as a legal argument in demonstrating why the court should dismiss the case of my clients
Violation of procedural rules and illogical reasoning with respect to this charge has completely distorted the meaning of the activities of the accused. Hence; I kindly ask the esteemed court to grant an outright dismissal to this case and release my clients.