Ethiopia: Court reduces Yonatan Tesfaye’s prison sentences

Yonatan Tesfaye

ESAT News (November 27, 2017)

The Supreme Court of Ethiopia reduced jail sentences for Yonatan Tesfaye, activist and former public relations head for the Blue Party, who was sentenced to six and half years for a Facebook post. But lawyers commenting on the court’s decision say Yonatan shouldn’t be put in jail in the first place.

Yonatan was put behind bars in December 2015 over a Facebook post encouraging people to demand their political and human rights. Regime prosecutors cited the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and charge Yonatan with acts of terrorism and a federal court handed down a six and half years prison sentence. Todays Supreme Court ruling change the terrorism charges to criminal offences and reduce the sentence by three years.

Commenting on the issue, lawyers approached by ESAT says the regime is using the antiterror proclamation to target dissidents and activists. They said Yonatan shouldn’t have been charged with any crime in the first place as he was simply exercising his freedom of speech on his Facebook posts.

Regime prosecutors routinely file bogus charges of terrorism against opponents and activists; and the courts, which work under the direction of those in power, hand down prison terms. Prisoners have in a number of instance reported to courts that interrogators have tortured them, including but not limited to beatings, removing toenails, and even cruel torture to prisoners’ genitals.

Nigist Yirga

In at least two instance, prisoners pull down their pants before the courts to show damages done to their private parts.

Nigist Yirga is a young activist known for her viral photo as she took part in the anti-TPLF protest in Gondar in the summer of 2016. In september of that year, she was abducted by TPLF security forces and taken to the Central Investigation Bureau, a.k.a the torture chamber of the regime in Addis Ababa. Nigist says interrogators had removed her toenails and in a number of occasions, stripped off her clothings and poke fun at her naked body.