Terrorism case adjourned
Addis Ababa (AFP) – An Ethiopian judge delayed the verdict on Friday in the case of 24 people charged with terrorism, including prominent journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition member Andualem Arage.
The conclusion of the trial, which has been widely condemned by human rights organisations, was postponed until June 21 because the judge had not received a full transcript of the defendants’ case.
“We will not give a decision because some parts of the defence are not transcribed,” Judge Endashaw Endale told the courtroom.
The 24 on trial were charged with terrorism in September 2011, and potentially face the death penalty if found guilty.
Only 20 people were allowed into the crowded courtroom, including US Ambassador Donald Booth, journalists and family members.
About two dozen people remained outside because of space restrictions.
The group is charged under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation, which rights groups have criticised of being used to stifle peaceful dissent.
Last week Eskinder was honoured in New York with a “freedom to write” award by the US-based press watchdog PEN.
Eskinder was arrested after publishing an article questioning arrests under the anti-terrorism legislation.
He is among 11 independent journalists and bloggers Addis Ababa has charged with terrorism since 2011, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which says Ethiopia’s media is one of the most restricted in the world.
In December, two Swedish journalists were found guilty on terror charges after they were arrested with members of an outlawed group. They were sentenced to 11 years in prison.