ESAT News (April 7, 2017)
Ethiopia’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that two bloggers from the Zone 9 collective, Atnaf Berhane and Natnael Feleke, previously acquitted of terrorism charges, should be tried instead on charges of inciting violence through their writing.
“We urge Ethiopian authorities to do the right thing and drop any further prosecution of Atnaf Berhane and Natnael Feleke on charges relating to their work,” said Africa Program Coordinator with the Committee to Protect Journalists, Angela Quintal. “Today’s acquittal of two Zone 9 bloggers is a positive step, but there can be no celebration until this exhibition of legal harassment ends once and for all.”
If convicted, Atnaf Berhane and Natnael Feleke would face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
The court upheld the lower court’s acquittal of two other Zone 9 bloggers, Soleyana Shimelis Gebremichael and Abel Wabella. Today’s actions by the Supreme Court were a response to prosecutors’ appeal of the October 2015 acquittal of all four.
Ethiopia ranked fourth on CPJ’s 2015 list of the 10 Most Censored Countries and is the fifth worst jailer of journalists worldwide, according to CPJ’s 2016 prison census. CPJ awarded Zone 9 an International Press Freedom Award in 2015.
A dozen journalists still remain in jail.