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Eskinder Nega sentenced to 18 years in jail

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - Ethiopia, 13 July 2012 - ARTICLE 19 condemns the sentencing today of 6 Ethiopian journalists including Eskinder Nega, a prominent journalist and blogger for conspiring with rebels to overthrow the government.

“Once again the Ethiopian government has used the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle freedom of expression. This should be of concern to all since the space for independent press is no longer guaranteed in Ethiopia,”said Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Director for Eastern Africa.

“We again demand that the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation be revised since it is very broad, ambiguous, and deprives defendants of the right to be presumed innocent. The law undermines international guarantees of freedom of expression especially through its broad definition of terrorism, which has been applied in this particular case,” Maina added.

An Ethiopian court on 13 July sentenced Nega to 18 years in jail while five other exiled journalists and a blogger were sentenced in absentia to between 15 years and life imprisonment. Opposition official Andualem Arage was also jailed for life, and two other prominent opposition figures, Berhanu Nega and Andargachew Tsige received life sentences in absentia. Another four people charged alongside them were not sentenced since their case was being treated separately.

The journalists had been charged under the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation with six counts, including conspiracy to dismantle constitutional order; recruitment and training for terror acts and aiding Ethiopia's arch foe Eritrea; as well as belonging to a terrorism group Ginbo 7 that aimed at disrupting national security.

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Ethiopia government to review the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to ensure it conforms to internationally acceptable limitations of freedom of expression. In particular, the law should not be used to suppress legitimate forms of expression, association and peaceful assembly
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