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Ethiopia: Police Request More Time for Zone 9 Bloggers Investigation

Last Wednesday, Ethiopian bloggers Atnaf Berahane, Zelalem Kibret and Natnael Feleke (all members of the Zone 9 blogging collective) and journalists Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Tesfalem Waldyes and Edom Kassaye were brought before an Addis Ababa court for the first time since their detention on April 25. At the brief hearing, police requested more time for their investigation.
 
Scene outside Addis Ababa court. Photo published with permission.

Zelalem and Tesfalem being escorted out of an Addis Ababa court. Photo published with permission.

According to their attorneys, the detainees will face charges related to accepting assistance from a foreign NGO and “inciting violence through social media.”

The six men and women, along with bloggers Befeqadu Hailu, Abel Wabela, and Mahlet Fantahun — also members of the Zone 9 group – were arrested in late April and have been in detention ever since. All are influential writers on political and social issues in Ethiopia and have played an active role in organizing political debate and protests online.
 

The hearing was closed to the public, despite many attempts by diplomats and others to attend. According to friends of the Global Voices community who were on the scene, onlookers outside the court building were forbidden from speaking to the detainees. Supporters who waited outside the court waved their hands to the detainees and they smiled back. They could not wave their hands in response, as they were handcuffed. 

The scene was highly emotional: friends and families were crying, and Natnael looked very down. He was seen crying while he was escorted in and out of the court. People fear that they might have been exposed to torture but with the exception of Natnael, the group looked strong and showed high spirits.

The case has been adjourned until May 17.

 

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