Zone 9 Bloggers Charged With Terrorism in Ethiopia

Zone 9 bloggers Zelalem Kibret, Edom Kasaye, and Befeqadu Hailu. Photos used with permission.

Zone 9 bloggers Zelalem Kibret, Edom Kasaye, and Befeqadu Hailu. Photos used with permission.

Nine bloggers and journalists, four of them Global Voices members, were charged with terrorism and related activities before Ethiopia’s Lideta High Court yesterday. Arrested and detained in Addis Ababa on April 25 and 26, they since have been behind bars on informal accusations of “working with foreign organizations that claim to be human rights activists and…receiving finance to incite public violence through social media.” 

 The defendants’ attorneys and families were not given prior notice about the hearing, and they thus had no legal representation present when the charges were issued. 

The Zone9 Trial Tracker blog, run by sources close to the defendants, reported that the charges included working with organizations branded as “terrorist” by the Ethiopian government; participating in an email encryption training; and “underground organization.” 

The bloggers’ attorney told AFP that the charges have no “credible substance.” Supporters around the world expressed outrage over the charges on Twitter, under the #FreeZone9Bloggers hashtag. Yoseph Mulugeta, a former Human Rights Watch representative in Ethiopia who has been following the case closely, tweeted:

Enacted in 2009, Ethiopia’s controversial anti-terrorism law is unfortunately familiar for political journalists in the country. Journalists Eskinder Nega and Reeyot Alemu faced the same charge and have been held in Addis Ababa’s Kalaity prison since 2011. Prosecutors reportedly issued the charge based on accusations that the bloggers had received training and financial support from two Ethiopian political groups based in Europe and the US. Trial Tracker notes that the two groups are ideologically dissimilar. 

According to news reports, the bloggers and journalists were also accused of organizing themselves clandestinely as the Zone9 blogging collective, a puzzling charge, given the public nature of the Zone9 blog and activities undertaken by the group.

The group has been given a trial date of August 8. Visit the Trial Tracker Blog for updates on the case and to learn how your can support the Zone9ers.

Free Zone9 Bloggers campaign image. Created by Hugh D'Andrade, remixed by Hisham Almiraat.

Free Zone9 Bloggers campaign image. Created by Hugh D'Andrade, remixed by Hisham Almiraat.

4 comments

  • Wedi Tgray

    They may fool naive westerners into thinking that they are independent,free thinking (westernized and hip) bloggers but they are Amhara supremacists who have allegiance to all the Amhara power revivalists. How come all these so called bloggers tend to be Amhara? Ethiopi is indeed a country of over 70 ethnic groups.
    Why were they using innuendos to spread ethnic discord? Why we’re not they criticizing policy but individuals who tend to be from a certain group? They are the cyber rRadio Mille Collins. Amhara will never seize power again.the federal system is here to stay. No more big central Amhara government.

  • […] Ethiopia’s Zone9 bloggers and their journalist colleagues were charged with terrorism two weeks ago, our community members put their heads together to decide how we might help the […]

  • […] 25, 2014 along with five fellow members of Zone9 and three journalist colleagues. On July 17, 2014, all nine detainees were charged under the country’s penal code and the Terrorism Proclamation of 2009. Befeqadu mentions in his […]

  • […] 25, 2014 along with five fellow members of Zone9 and three journalist colleagues. On July 17, 2014, all nine detainees were charged under the country’s penal code and the Terrorism Proclamation of 2009. Befeqadu mentions in his […]

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