19 July 2014

Ethiopia: Bloggers, Journalists Transferred From Meakelawi to Kilinto, Kality

Photo: Sudan Tribune
Ethiopia accused of targeting Oromo people (file photo).

Three journalists Tesfalem Waldyes, Asmamaw Hailegiorgis and Edom Kassaye and six other bloggers and members of Zone 9, Soliana Shimeles (in absentia), Natnael Feleke, Befekadu Hailu, Mahlet Fantahun, Atnafu Birhane, Zelalem Kibret and Abel Wabela who were suspected of terrorism acts and spent more than two months in Meakelawi have now been charged by the prosecutor with terrorism acts and transferred to Kality on June 17.

The charge presented to the newly formed 19th criminal bench of the Federal High Court by the federal prosecutor stated that the suspects participated in terrorism acts and secretly organized to destabilize the country, the charge stated. According to the charge, the suspects prepared a short-term and long-term plan to destabilize the country and work and receive commands from the organizations outlawed by the Ethiopian parliament such as Ginbot 7 and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) starting from 2May 2012 until they were caught by the police.

The charge also detailed that among the suspects, Soliana Shimeles was the founder and organizer of the group from 2012 to 2014 and from 2014 on she was working as the foreign relations head and organizer in foreign countries and creating a connection with Ginbot 7 to recruit and mobilize members. She was also working on organizing various trainings outside the country, among the training that she organized for the members of the secretly organized group was given outside the Ethiopia and titled "Security In A Box" the charge listed. The other suspect Befekadu Hailu is charged with leading the local secretly organized group and giving commands and assigning individuals to different tasks and also preparing a plan and strategy to communicate with the outlawed organization, the charge stated.

The charge by the federal prosecutor also stated that Natnael Feleke who is another suspect charged with having communicated with Ginbot 7, led the secretly organized group, received 48 thousand birr and distributed to other members of the group who worked under his supervision.

Other suspects charged with working with Ginbot 7 and OLF and taking training both locally and internationally are also charged in planned, prepared, conspired and incitement of terrorist acts.

The charge brought by the federal prosecutor in all suspects stated that all of the suspects agreed to change the constitutional system and the government through turmoil and other ways and worked with outlawed groups to do so.

The presiding judge read out the charges and said that since the suspects were charged with terrorism they would not be granted bail.

According to Article 20 of the Anti-terrorism proclamation, if a terrorism charge is in accordance with the anti-terrorism proclamation, the court shall order the suspect to be remanded for trial until the court hears and gives a decision on the case.

However, one of the defense lawyers argued that their clients are suspects and it has not been proven that they were terrorists and thus requested the court to grant them bail.

Another defense lawyer argued that it is their constitutional right to be granted bail and the decision of the court requires constitutional interpretation.

The prosecution objected the defense's argument saying that although the constitution grants every citizen bail rights there are exceptions in different criminal acts one of which is terrorism and requested to court to deny bail. After hearing the defense's case the presiding judge adjourned the case to July 4 for a final decision.

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