Posts filed under ‘Activists’
Addis Ababa – An Ethiopian court on Thursday dismissed the appeal of blogger Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage who were jailed last year for terror-related offences.
“The sentencing is still correct so there is no reduction,” said Supreme Court judge Dagne Melaku, confirming Eskinder’s jail term of 18 years and Andualem’s life sentence.
One of the charges – serving as a leader of a terrorist organisation – was dropped, but had no effect on sentencing.
After the ruling, Eskinder made an emotional appeal to the court which was crowded with family, friends and diplomats.
“The truth will set us free,” he said. “We want the Ethiopian public to know that the truth will reveal itself, it’s only a matter of time.”
Both men are accused of links to the outlawed opposition group Ginbot 7.
“The walls of justice will be demolished,” Andualem told AFP.
Four other men also jailed for terror-related charges had their appeal quashed.
One other defendant, however, Kinfe Michael, had his sentence reduced from 25 years to 16 years.
Rights groups have called Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation vague and accuse the government of using the law to stifle peaceful dissent.
“I am very sad, I am very angry, I cannot talk rationally,” Eskinder’s wife Serkalem Fasil told AFP after the decision.
Defence lawyer Abebe Guta said that justice had not been served, and that if his clients agreed, they would appeal to the court of cassation, Ethiopia’s highest court.
The US was “deeply disappointed” that Ethiopia’s federal supreme court upheld the men’s “conviction and harsh sentencing,” acting deputy State Department spokesperson Patrick Ventrell said.
“Today’s decision further reinforces our serious concern about Ethiopia’s politicised prosecution of those critical of the government and ruling party, including under the anti-terrorism proclamation.”
He did not say if the court’s decision would impact a planned trip to Ethiopia by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of May.
Ethiopia has one of the most restricted media in the world and the highest number of journalists living in exile, according to US-based press watchdog, the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Last year Eskinder was awarded the prestigious PEN America’s “Freedom to Write” annual prize.
Justice is supposed to be blind. Judges aren’t supposed to be when it comes to justice. When one thinks of court, one thinks of justice. The famous picture of the lady with the blindfold covering one eye – but that blind fold is starting to look more like an eye patch on a pirate, as many Ethiopians and foreigners as well are being robbed of their day in court. There are good judges out there, but sadly there are quite a few bad ones like Judge Dagne Melaku.
His conduct, among others, is the subject of a forthcoming Sonustar film titled “Justice and Truth.” Thanks to this dirty judge, I got to see firsthand, the sweeping corruption present in the Ethiopian judicial system that in my opinion is the most corrupt in the world.
Rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned the initial conviction of Eskinder in July 2012.
New York, August 28, 2012–The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes today’s decision by the Ethiopian Ministry of Justice to release the editor of a leading independent weekly from jail and drop all criminal charges against him. CPJ also calls for the release of eight other journalists now imprisoned in Ethiopia for their work.
Temesghen Desalegn, editor of Feteh, was released from Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, the capital, at around 3 p.m. today, according to Feteh Deputy Editor Hailemeskel Beshewamyelhu. The journalist was jailed on Friday in connection with his articles that appeared in seven editions of Feteh and criticized the policies of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, according to local journalists.
Charges against Mastewal Publishing and Advertising PLC, the company that publishes Feteh, were also dropped, according to news reports. The company had been charged with inciting the public to violence by publishing Feteh, according to a charge sheet reviewed by CPJ. Temesghen faced criminal charges including defaming the state and inciting people to overthrow the government, the sheet said.
Desalegn Teressa, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, told Bloomberg News, “After further investigation, the prosecutors have decided to drop the charges.” But the government did not give an explanation as to why the charges against Temesghen and Mastewal Publishing had been dropped.
Feteh has not been published since July 20, when the government ordered Barhanena Selam, the state-run printing company, not to print the paper. The ministry blockedthe distribution of a Feteh edition with a front-page story about the conflicting reports surrounding the illness of Meles, according to news reports. It was not immediately clear whether Fetehwould be able to resume publishing.
“We’re relieved Temesghen Desalegn has been freed and will not face criminal prosecution for his journalism,” CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita said. “We call on Ethiopian authorities to demonstrate a commitment to freedom of expression by releasing the eight other journalists currently imprisoned for their work and by ending the government’s practice of prosecuting journalists who voice dissenting views.”
Among the eight journalists in prison is independent blogger Eskinder Nega, who has been sentenced to 18 years in prison on charges of participating in a terrorist organization and inciting anti-government protests, according to CPJ research.
The United States is deeply concerned about the prosecution primarily of journalists and political activists under the anti-terrorism law. A court in Ethiopia has convicted a prominent journalist and seven other citizens there, along with 16 who were tried in absentia, of violations of the country’s anti-terrorism law. It was the third case in six months in which journalists were tried under that statute. The United States is deeply concerned about the prosecution primarily of journalists and political activists under the anti-terrorism law. The practice raises serious questions and concerns about the intent of the law and about the sanctity of Ethiopians’ constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of expression.
Journalist and online blogger Eskinder Nega was arrested last September and accused of trying to incite violence with a series of articles that he wrote and posted online. He was also videotaped at a town hall meeting discussing the “Arab Spring” protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries and whether such demonstrations were possible in Ethiopia.Prosecutors said Nega’s activities and those of the other defendants violated the anti-terrorism law because they could encourage others to attempt terrorist acts – charges that all of the defendants denied.
The government has detained Eskinder seven times in all for his writings, part of a disturbing pattern. Including the verdicts last week, 14 of the 17 people convicted under the anti-terrorism law — not counting those convicted in absentia — are either journalists or opposition political figures.
Media freedom is under fire in other ways too. The Ethiopian government is blocking access to a growing number of websites – including recently the online international news sites of The Washington Post and The Economist – which restricts the free flow and exchange of information over the internet.
Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are fundamental elements of a democratic society. When they are restricted, all human rights suffer. That is why the United States has joined its international partners in calling for the end to actions anywhere that have a chilling effect on the media and on the right to freedom of expression.
By Armin Rosen - Armin Rosen is an Atlantic Media fellow.
Shrewd, brutal, and a master at soliciting and spending aid money, Prime Minister Zenawi’s 20 years of rule could be nearing its end.
Following the news of the past few years, you might get the impression that flamboyance and bellicosity are signature traits of any long-tenured dictator. But for every Muammar Qaddafi there’s a Meles Zenawi, the shrewd, technocratic Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Inside of the country, he’s known for imprisoning his political opponents, withholding development assistance from restive areas, stealing elections, and cracking down on civil society NGOs. In the rest of the world, he’s often praised for his impressive economic record, though not for his human rights. Zenawi has attracted Western support by being a responsible steward of aid money, a security partner in a rough region, and a G20 summit invitee.
Now, both his supporters and his detractors may have to contemplate a future without him. Zenawi is in a Brussels hospital with an unspecified stomach ailment that may or may not be fatal, depending upon what news reports you believe. Today, a government spokesperson announced that Zenawi would be taking a leave of absence from running the country, which he’s led since 1991.
From a human rights perspective, Zenawi’s rule has been abusive, heavy-handed, and self-interested.. Still, his apparently earnest dedication to sustainable development has long attracted international donors, whose money has benefited Ethiopia while propping up his regime. Zenawi, has fostered a friendlier environment for foreign investment. Between 2000 and 2010, Ethiopia’s GDP enjoyed a staggering average annual growth rate of 8.8 percent — China-like numbers. The country’s public sector is hardly clean of corruption, but the Ethiopian state isn’t as mismanaged or as predatory as others in the region. It ranks 120th out of 183 governments on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions index, not exactly Scandinavian but still ahead of such regional leaders as Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria.
Under his leadership, Ethiopians have suffered from a lack of human, civil, and political rights. At the same time, their country has earned a reputation as a place where aid money can be responsibly and effectively spent. “The U.S. assistance portfolio in Ethiopia remains one of the United States’ largest and most complex in Africa” according to an online U.S. government profile of the roughly $2.1 billion in aid the U.S. has sent to Ethiopia since 2010. The World Bank helps fund over $ 4.4 billion worth of projects in the country.
This is the paradox of Zenawi’s legacy. He has done much to simultaneously help and hurt his people, with just the kind of quiet skill that you hope to see in a benign leader and dread in a malevolent one. If he never returns to office, should he be remembered as the technocrat behind Ethiopia’s amazing economic rise, or the brutal strongman who resisted democracy as much of Africa adopted it? Though one did not necessarily require the other — a kinder, gentler Zenawi might have overseen even better growth — the same character might inform both sides of his rule.
“When I meet with Prime Minister Meles and [Ugandan] President [Yoweri] Museveni, I feel like I am attending development seminar,” rockstar development economist Jeffrey Sachssaid in a 2004 speech. “They are ingenious, deeply knowledgeable, and bold.” Magnus Taylor, the managing editor of the Royal African Society’s renowned African Arguments blog, wrote about Zenawi’s ability to dazzle foreign investors at the World Economic Forum in Addis Ababa this past May, while challenging the democratic world’s seemingly dogmatic belief in the causal relationship between political freedom and economic dynamism:
Sitting astride this economic growth, and taking pride of place at this year’s WEF, was Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. In an event that boasted such political heavyweights as former British PM Gordon Brown, and private sector luminaries like the Ivorian boss of The Prudential, Tidjane Thiam, whose $600 billion worth of assets makes Ethiopia look like a minnow, I was surprised by how much Meles came out as the dominant figure. A fiercely intelligent man, with a grasp of figures redolent of Brown (whom Meles referred to as ‘Prime Minister’ throughout) he seemed totally in his element. Perhaps it was the nature of the audience. He was never going to have to field too many tricky questions about Ethiopia’s political space, (un)free press or tight government control over telecommunications and banking in front of a room full of CEOs and fellow technocrats.One senses that in certain crowds his statement that “there is no direct relationship between economic growth and democracy” would have got him in to trouble – important players were gnashing their teeth at this but Meles, kingpin of Western policy in the Horn of Africa, knows exactly how much he can loosen his Marxist instincts without upsetting his donors.
The World Economic Forum was one of Zenawi’s last public appearances. Even if he survives his illness, there is currently no public timetable for his return to Addis Ababa. As dictators across North Africa and the Middle East can no longer take their survival for granted, it’s worth wondering whether Zenawi will be the model for the next generation of enlightened, western-coddled autocrats — or one of the last of a literally dying breed.
Source: The Atlantic
(IPI/IFEX) – VIENNA, Twenty international journalists who have been recognised as World Press Freedom Heroes by the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) have condemned the Ethiopian government’s decision to jail Eskinder Nega and other journalists on terrorism charges, and called for their immediate release.
Eskinder Nega, an online writer and critic of the current Ethiopian government, was arrested in September 2011 and is accused of supporting terrorism, for which he could face the death penalty if convicted. He was jailed shortly after having criticized the government’s use of anti-terrorism laws to jail other journalists and opposition figures.
This is hardly Eskinder’s first brush with the authorites – he and his wife, also a journalist, were jailed for 17 months on treason charges in the aftermath of the disputed 2005 elections. Their son was born in prison. Since then, Eskinder has been banned from journalism but has continued to speak out and write.
Ethiopia, which is set to host the World Economic Forum on Africa in May 2012, jailed Eskinder and four other journalists on anti-terrorism charges over the past year.
Woubshet Taye, deputy editor of the now-defunct Awramba Times, and Reyot Alemu of Feteh newspaper were convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison this January. In December, Swedish journalists Martin Schibbye and Johann Persson were sentenced to 11 years in prison for aiding terrorists. They had been arrested last year in the company of rebels in the Ogaden region.
Last month, IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie called on United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to speak out against Ethiopia’s use of anti-terror laws to jail journalists, which IPI said “makes a mockery of the universal right to ‘hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers’.”
IPI noted that this practice also undermines “the fight against real terrorists, who use violence – and not words – to achieve their ends”.
Each of the men and women who signed this petition has been honoured for their contributions to freedom of the press in their home countries and around the world. Many have themselves been jailed for their work – indeed Turkish author and investigative reporter Nedim Sener’s battle against terrorism charges, believed by observers to be designed to silence him as a journalist, is not over yet. Read their call for Ethiopia’s journalists to be freed, A letter to H.E. Meles Zenawi. Read below at: http://www.ifex.org/ethiopia/2012/04/23/nega_petition/
By PETER JAMES SPIELMANN
An imprisoned Ethiopian journalist and blogger who could face the death penalty for advocating peaceful protests in his Horn of Africa homeland was honored Tuesday with PEN America’s “Freedom to Write” award.
Eskinder Nega was arrested in 2011 under Ethiopia’s sweeping anti-terrorism laws, which PEN says criminalize any reporting deemed to “encourage” or “provide moral support” to groups and causes the government deems “terrorists.”
Nega is still in jail after a judge in Addis Ababa found him guilty Jan. 23 on terror charges. He could face the death penalty at sentencing.
Ethiopia has arrested close to 200 people, among them journalists and opposition politicians and members, under last year’s anti-terrorism proclamation.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country in the world over the past decade.
Nega was honored at PEN/America’s annual gala dinner Tuesday at the American Museum of Natural History, with some 500 PEN members and supporters in attendance.
PEN/America granted him the year’s PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.
Forty-six women and men have received the award since 1987; 33 of the 37 honorees who were in prison at the time they were honored were subsequently released.
Accepting the award was his wife, Serkalem Fasil, a free expression advocate in her own right, who served 17 months in prison for treason starting in 2005 and gave birth to their child behind bars. She won the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award in 2007.
“The Ethiopian writer Eskinder Nega is that bravest and most admirable of writers, one who picked up his pen to write things that he knew would surely put him at grave risk,” said Peter Godwin, president of PEN American Center. “Yet he did so nonetheless. And indeed he fell victim to exactly the measures he was highlighting, Ethiopia’s draconian `anti terrorism’ laws that criminalize critical commentary.”
Nega has been publishing articles critical of the government since 1993, when he opened his first newspaper, Ethiopis, which was soon shut down by authorities.
He was the general manager of Serkalem Publishing House, which published the newspapers Asqual, Satenaw, and Menelik, all of which are now banned in Ethiopia.
Nega has also been a columnist for the monthly magazine Change and the U.S.-based news forum EthioMedia, which are also banned in Ethiopia.
He has been detained at least seven times under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, including in 2005, when he and his wife Serkalem were imprisoned for 17 months on treason charges for their critical reporting on the government’s violent crackdown of protests following disputed elections, and briefly in February 2011 for “attempts to incite Egyptian and Tunisian-like protests in Ethiopia” after he published articles on the Arab uprisings.
Nega has been denied a license to practice journalism since 2005, yet he has continued to publish columns critical of the government’s human rights record and calling for an end to political repression and corruption.
Nega was again arrested Sept. 14, 2011, after he published a column questioning the government’s claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists, and for criticizing the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu on terror charges earlier that week.
Shortly after his arrest, Nega was charged with affiliation with the banned political party Ginbot 7, which the Ethiopian government considers a terrorist organization. On Nov. 10, Nega was charged and further accused of plotting with and receiving weapons and explosives from neighboring Eritrea to carry out terrorist attacks in Ethiopia. State television portrayed Nega and other political prisoners as “spies for foreign forces.”
He is being held in Maekelawi Prison in Addis Ababa, where detainees are reportedly often tortured.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek
Eskinder Nega was awarded the Pen America’s “Freedom to Write” annual prize for publishing articles critical of Ethiopia’s human rights record.
His wife Serkalem Fasil, who is a journalist and also spent time in jail, received the award on his behalf.
In the past decade, more journalists have fled Ethiopia than any other country, press freedom groups say.
“I accept this award on behalf of Eskinder Nega at a time when freedom of expression and press freedom are at the lowest in Ethiopia,” Ms Serkalem said on Tuesday night in a ceremony in New York.
“If Eskinder were standing here, he’d accept this award, not just as a personal honour, but on behalf of all Ethiopian journalists who toil under withering conditions today: Those who went into exile over the years… those in prison with whom he now resides,” she said.
Mr Eskinder has been in Maekelawi prison in the capital, Addis Ababa, since his arrest in September last year.
He was found guilty in January under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism laws – which criminalize commentary that is critical of the government – and could face the death penalty when he is sentenced.
He had published a column questioning the government’s claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists, and for criticising the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu.
Mr Eskinder is “that bravest and most admirable of writers, one who picked up his pen to write things that he knew would surely put him at grave risk”, said Peter Godwin, president of the Pen American Center.
“Yet he did so nonetheless. And indeed he fell victim to exactly the measures he was highlighting,” Zimbabwean-born writer Mr Godwin added.
The Pen award is given to writers who have been persecuted or imprisoned for exercising the right to freedom of expression.
Mr Eskinder opened his first newspaper in 1993, and has been detained at least seven times by the government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
He was stripped of his licence to work as a journalist in 2005, but continued to write for the US-based news forum EthioMedia, which is banned in Ethiopia.
He and his wife Ms Serkalem were both jailed in 2005 for criticising the government’s violent crackdown of protests following disputed elections.
During their 17 months in prison, Ms Fasil gave birth to their son
Source: BBC News
Ex Ethiopian leader’s future uncertain in Zimbabwe, Bring the Butcher of Addis to justice- A call for human rights
By Janet Shoko
Former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who oversaw the murder of several thousands of his countrymen during the “Red Terror” campaign could be living on the edge in Zimbabwe as his future after the demise of his friend President Mugabe is uncertain.
Mengitsu also known as “Butcher of Addis” has lived in the Southern Africa country for the past two decades as a special guest of his close friend -Mugabe. He fled his country in 1991 to settle in Harare as the Tigre People’s Liberation Front and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front surrounded Addis Ababa.
At the time, the United States asked Mugabe to accept Mengistu to end the bloodshed.
A few years ago Mengistu was relocated from his Harare villa to a prime farm seized by Zanu (PF) in the rich Mazowe Valley. His public appearances have been next to nil.
In 2006, the then opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) angered Zanu PF when it hinted that it would withdraw the protection afforded by Mugabe’s government and extradite him to Ethiopia. Nelson Chamisa, who was MDC’s chief spokesman said the ex leader’s extradition to Ethiopia would be “high on the agenda” of the new administration.
Mengistu, 74, has had his fair share of troubles in Zimbabwe. It is claimed that he once advised Mugabe on security matters and according to reports, he proposed the idea of clearing slums, which was implemented as Operation Murambatsvina or Operation Get rid of the filth in 2005, and chaired meetings at which the operation was planned.
Mengitsu is said to have warned Mugabe that the swelling slum and backyard population in Zimbabwe was creating a fertile ground for a mass uprising. The United Nations later estimated that more than 700 000 people had been left homeless in the move.
And while Mugabe’s then administration had made light attempts to squash the reports giving credence that Megistu played a key role, diplomatic relations between the man who toppled Mengistu- Meles Zenawi and the coalition administration is not clear.
Now Mugabe is in poor health and speculation is that if he dies Mengistu could be in trouble.
However, Zimbabwe media has over the years widely reported on arrest and torture of Ethiopian refugees passing through the country on their way to South Africa.
An official and the Foreign Affairs ministry told The Africa Report that Mengistu and his government played a pivotal role during and after the liberation struggle and extraditing him “would be a betrayal”.
But civic society has a firm view on Mengistu, they want him out of Zimbabwe dead or alive. “The nature of his departure, whether dead or alive is not critical. He should just leave Zimbabwe” Albertina Moyo said. He added that apart from liberation history, little is known of the two countries in terms of bilateral trade.
Darlington Musanu said “If it was a collective decision, he may continue to be in Zimbabwe but if it was an individual one by Mugabe which is very likely he may go as soon as the man dies”.
He added another dimension: If a Zanu PF member takes over as president chances of him (Mengistu) being deported are slim.
Zanu PF people tend to follow set procedures. But if a new leader is from MDC-T certainly they will send him straight to The Hague.
Source: The Africa Report
NAIROBI, Kenya – A civil rights activist says police have tear gassed several hundred protesters marching toward the offices of Kenya’s president and prime minister to demand action over a growing hunger crisis. Images of children with skinny, malnourished bodies are becoming commonplace in this corner of Africa. Thousands of families walk for days in search of food in a triangle of hunger where the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia meet. Hundreds already have died. Dinah Awuor Agar, the president of a group of low-wage workers known as the People’s Parliament, said Thursday that the demonstrators were holding a peaceful procession when riot police confronted them. Agar said police chased down demonstrators, beat them with batons and arrested them despite the fact Kenya’s new constitution allows peaceful demonstrations. Charles Owino, a police spokesman, says police dispersed the protesters because the demonstration is illegal. Read the full article here: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/07/07/501364/main20077547.shtml