Ethiopian court absolves four bloggers of terrorism charges

Ethiopian court absolves four bloggers suspected of planning attacks and having connections to terrorist organisation

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Ethiopians in Addis Ababa read newspapers on the day before the country went to the polls.

Updated Oct 19, 2015

After 18 months in jail, four Ethiopian bloggers were on Friday absolved of accusations of planning a terrorist attack. 

The bloggers had been accused of planning attacks and having connections with US-based opposition group Ginbot 7, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by the Ethiopian administration.

The case was strongly condemned by human rights groups as an assault on press freedom.

Defence lawyer Amha Mekonnen said on Friday after the court ruling that "They shouldn't have stayed in prison for so long - 539 days - in fact, they shouldn't have been prosecuted in the first place."

Three of the jailed bloggers – Atnaf Berbane, Abel Wabella and Natnail Feleke - were released from jail on Friday.

However, the fourth journalist Befekadu Hailu is still in custody on charges of provocative violence, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 10 years.

In April 2014, six bloggers from the Zone 9 website were also arrested and charged with terrorism and having connections to terrorist organisations.

"I am feeling bittersweet,they spent a year and six months in prison for doing nothing, we spent a year and three months for nothing," said journalist Tesfalem Waldyes, who was released from prison in July, but came back to court to hear the judgement on Friday.

"On charges of terrorism? This absurd, this whole thing is absurd." Waldyes said.

Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation has been criticised by human rights groups as being intended to suppress peaceful dissent.

TRTWorld and agencies