Ethiopia Drops Charges Against Three Journalists, Two Bloggers of the Zone 9 Group

After a year and three months since they were first detained by the police, charges were dropped this afternoon against Journalists Tesfalem Wadyes Asmamaw Hailegiorgis and Edom Kassaye as well as Zelalem Kibret and Mahlet Fantahun, members of the blog Zone9.

Zone9 bloggers charged with terror activities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Zone9 bloggers charged with terror activities in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

FBC, a pro government media outlet reported that charges were dropped only against five of the nine detainees by the order of the ministry of justice. Prosecutors will continue pursuing charges against Abel Wabella, Natinael Feleke, Befekadu Hailu, Atinaf Berhane and Soliana Shimelis of Zone9 bloggers, the later charged in absentia.

Tesfalem told Addis Standard that the name of the three of them were called out by a megaphone late this afternoon when they were told charges against them were dropped and “we can leave:. They were detained in Qilinto prison on the outskirt of Addis Abeba, where they were transferred to a few weeks after they have been kept incommunicado at Ma’ekelawi, a notorious prison in the heart of Addis Abeba.

They have since been charged under the country’s infamous Anti-terrorism proclamation, a charge marred by prosecutor’s inability to produce indisputable evidence. The charges have attracted global condemnation.

Their release comes a few weeks before the planned visit by President Barak Obama to Ethiopia. An unprecedented crackdown by Ethiopian security forces on April 24th and 25th 2014 saw the arrest of six independent bloggers writing for Zone9 blog post and three independent journalists.

Only Zelalem is out.

Journalist Tesfalem Wadyes, freelance journalist, journalist Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, senior editor at an influential Amharic weekly magazine Addis Guday (which was forced to close), and Edom Kassaye, who previously worked at state daily Addis Zemen Newspaper and an active member of the Ethiopian Environmental Journalists Association (EEJA) and a close associate of Zone9 bloggers were all rounded up and taken by security forces on Friday night to Ma’akelawi, a notorious prison located in the heart of Addis Ababa.

Along with them were six members of the Zone9 blogging collective. All are young and educated individuals with different backgrounds who come together to blog with a motto “we blog because we care”.

They are: Atnaf Berhane IT professional, Mahlet Fantahun, Data expert, Befekadu Hailu from St. Mary’s University College, Abel Wabella, from Ethiopian Airlines, Natnail Feleke from the Construction and Business Bank, and Zelalem Kibret, from Ambo University.

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