January 14 hearing: Rudeness by police towards family members

Families and friends of the jailed bloggers and journalists waited under a burning sun. It was time for the 15th trial at Lideta High Court. 

As usual there was not enough space in the court room.  Most family members, friends, journalists and diplomats could not take part of the session. This recurring issue leads to that family members cannot attend to support their loved ones. This is of course very disappointing to everyone involved. There were also reports of rudeness and mistreating by the police towards family members.

Most trials are short, but today’s session was shorter than usual. During earlier sessions an amendment of the terrorism charges was ordered (more on this below). Last time, amended charges were presented, but according to the judges some details had still not been amended. Further amendment on these details was ordered. During today’s hearing, the charges were presented again, but according to reports no new amendments had been made to them. The court will decide on the amendment during the next hearing.

The trial is adjourned for the 16th time. The next session will take place on January 28, 2015.


Eye contact with bloggers prohibited during January 5 trial

Monday morning the Zone 9 Bloggers and the three journalists were brought to Lideta High Court for the 14th trial.

Families and friends of the detained stood in line waiting to get inside of the court room. Today, it was more crowded than usual outside of the court. Many people had gathered to follow the rape case of Hanna, which was held in the same place. Having several court hearings in the same court room and on the same day makes the court too crowded. Also, the session was delayed with the result that detainees, loved ones and people following the case online needed to wait for a long time for the session to begin. Furthermore, the space for families and friends in the court room was (as always) very limited. Just a few of them could attend.

During earlier sessions an amendment of the terrorism charges were ordered (read more below). The amended charges were presented today, but according to the judges some details had not been amended. However, the court accepted the amended charge regarding planning of terrorism acts. The court ordered further amendment on other details.

The situation in the court room became intense after the attendants were asked not to make eye contact with the bloggers. Security staff ordered attendants to switch off their cell phones. Despite the attempts to stop the reporting from trials, the hashtag #FreeZone9Bloggers is still going strong in social media.

The trial is adjourned for the 15th time. The next hearing will take place on January 14, 2015.



Another adjournment following December 16’s brief court session

Tuesday morning it was time for the 13 th trial of the Zone 9 Bloggers and journalists.

freezone9bloggers_court1 freezone9bloggers_mahletfantahun_edomkassaye

The bloggers and journalists photographed outside court.

During an earlier session there was an order to amend the terrorism charges (read more on this below). However, no amendments had been made to the charges presented during the last court session. Today, the lawyers of the bloggers claimed that the prosecutor never amended the charges. The lawyers had written a response to the charges, but their request to present it orally were not accepted.

Families and friends of the detained came to the court, but some of them could not attend the session because there were not enough space for them inside the courtroom.

Today, it is 235 days since the bloggers were imprisoned. The day also marks the birthday of blogger Zelalem Kibret, who has written the letter I’m longing for you, comrades from prison. You can read it by clicking here.

Today’s trial was very brief, and it was adjourned for the 14th time. The next hearing will take place on January 5, 2015. The case regarding the “amended” charges and the lawyers objection will be seen during the next court hearing.



No amendment of charges during December 3 court session

This morning it was the 12th court session for Zone 9 Bloggers and journalists at the Lideta High Court.


The bloggers,  smiling towards their friends,  are being escorted to court.

During the last hearing there was an order to amend the terrorism charges. The reason was that the charges did not specify what acts of terrorism the bloggers and journalists are alleged to have been doing. Despite the order, no amendment had been done to the charges presented today. However, there was a new point added accusing the bloggers for wanting to remove the constitutional order by the use of violence.

The bloggers were also repeatedly mentioned together with Ginbot 7, an organization banned as a terrorist network. The bloggers have been openly critical to this group and has denied all association with them. 

Friends and families of the bloggers were allowed to attend today’s trial. Also, there seems to have been a change for the better regarding visits of the female detainees, Mahlet Fantahun and Edom Kassaye. It is reported that they now  are allowed to have visitors more frequently.

The trial is adjourned for the 13th time, and the next hearing will take place on December 16, 2014.



Amendment of terror charges requested by court during November 12 hearing

Wednesday morning members of the Zone 9 Bloggers, together with the three journalists, arrived to another court session at Lideta High Court, Addis Ababa.

During this session there was an order to amend the terrorism charges. In an interview (Amharic) with Ameha Mekonnen, defence lawyer of the bloggers, it is said that the charges in its present form does not mention what kind of terrorism the bloggers and journalists are alleged to have been plotting. It only says that they are accused of organizing themselves and designing terrorism without mentioning how. The court therefore ordered an amendment of about eight points of the terrorism charges. The charges should specify the acts of terrorism the bloggers and journalists are alleged to have been doing, otherwise the trial may not be able to continue with the present charge. For details in English, read Interview with the lawyer of Zone 9 bloggers below.

Aslo, the court decided to drop the second charge of the bloggers. However, the major themes of the second charge are covered in the first charge, which the bloggers still are accused of.

Edom Kasaye, one of the journalists, complained that her family continues facing harassment by the police while trying to visit her at the Kality prison. Edom and blogger Mahlet Fantahun have also complained about deteriorating prison conditions, but one of the prison officials denied all allegations of ill-treatment. The case will be seen again during the next court hearing.

Reports coming from the hearing tells that even though observers gave up their places, there was not enough room for family and friends in the court.

The trial is adjourned for the 12th time. The next hearing will take place on December 3, 2014. During the coming trial the hearing of the amended terrorism charges will take place.



Interview with the lawyer of Zone 9 bloggers

This is an excerpt of the interview with the lawyer of Zone 9 bloggers about his reaction on the November 12, 2014 trial of the bloggers and journalists. The interview was conducted in Amharic by the so called BBN radio and translated by the administrator of this site.

As it is known after the prosecutor presented charges against journalists and bloggers we have presented detailed legal and thematic preliminary defense arguments and the prosecutors have argued against our arguments and presented what they believed is valid. Today’s hearing was therefore;for the court to give verdict based on our arguments and with reference to the law. So the court has given a verdict.

The court ordered unless the prosecutors amend and present detailed terror charges against the journalists and the bloggers the trial might not be able to continue with the present charge. The court requested the prosecutor to amend the terror charges on about eight points. I am only telling you the ones I have taken a note during the verdict. We will see further details when we receive the written verdict. However the court requested the prosecutor to amend the charges on basic issues. These are

  1. On the charge sheet the prosecutor cited Article 4 of the Anti-terrorism law of 2009. However Article 4 of the Anti-terrorism law could only be cited if the accused have violated (prepare, plan or/and organize) one or two of the six­­­­ actions of terror as stipulated in Article 3 of the same law. But in our preliminary defense statement we have argued that the charge doesn’t specify which sub-articles are violated by the accused. And the court has accepted our argument and ordered the prosecutor to amend the charge based on this recommendation.
  2. The other thing, is in the charge sheet the prosecutor has used terms like groups and organizations on one hand to refer to the accused as a group and on the other hand to refer to opposition groups like Ginbot 7 and OLF. So the court requested the prosecutor to specify which terms refers to which group.
  3. The third thing is the court ordered clarification on the charges regarding the  clandestine classification of duties and responsibilities of the bloggers.The court requested clarity on this  who took what kinds of responsibilities. On accepting mission and strategies on the so called “terrorist organizations” from the accused who took what kinds of strategies to conspire against the constitutional order should be specified. On the training’s  which allegedly the accused have partaken the court again required the prosecutor to specify what kind of training they have taken, who took part in the training and when the training was held.
  4. The court canceled the second charge since the major themes of the charge are mentioned on the first charge.

Finally the court has adjourned the hearing for December 3 to hear on the amended charges.

The other issue raised today was about the prison situation of the two accused female blogger and journalist. The two females who have reported ill-treatment in Kality prison again reported the deteriorating situations. However a person who claimed himself as a legal officer of the prison has denied any kind of ill-treatment against them. But the court ordered to verify and solve this problem and report back on the next hearing. Generally we are happy that the court has taken time to look at our arguments and give us a favorable verdict.



The dramatic trial re-adjourned for 12 November, 2014 after short proceedings

The trial of zone9 bloggers and journalist allies is re-adjourned for November 12, 2014 for a record 11th times in just six months of their incarceration.  The long awaited trial was adjourned after a brief procedure in confused manner that involved the arrest of the brother of  one of the accused bloggers  for attempting to take a picture of  his own brother, changing the court room for the hearing and replacing the presiding judges of the case with  new judges.

On separate news tomorrow at 10:00 am the bloggers will be brought to Supreme Court to appeal for their bail.


Detailed write up about today’s incident soon.



The trial of the Zone9 bloggers and journalist allies adjourned for 4th of November, 2014 for 10th time.

The trial is re-adjourned for 4th of November 2014 for the 10th times in a row. In an opening defense statement the bloggers and the journalist have argued that the charges presented them were not procedural and have serious breaches of their constitutional rights and they have asked the judge to dismiss the case and release them but the judge adjourned the case for 4th of November to decide on the legality of their defense statement.

In a written opening defense statement, which its English transcript available on this blog; the defendants claimed the charges signifies serious defects of reasoning, and have incurred incorrect application of the procedural provisions as stipulated in the Ethiopian law of criminal procedure of article 112. In response the prosecutors rejected the defense statements.

The trial was not started on time since the judge arrived to the court room late.

Violation of the bloggers right in Kality prison

The two female prisoners namely Edom Kassaye and Mahlet Fantahun complained to the court that their rights have been violated in Kality prison. The bloggers complained that they are labeled as ‘terrorist’ inside the prison. They protested that with the exception of their few family members they are not allowed to be visited by their loved ones. They also complained that their family members who are permitted to visit them have to pass through brutal treatment at the gates of Kality prison. The judge ordered the head of the Kality prison to give an explanation to the bloggers’ grievances. Despite the individual in question was seen inside the court compound she/he was reported as ‘not in attendance’ in the court; hence the judge rescheduled to hear the case on 21st of October, 2014 up on the request by Edom Kassaye.

Family & Friends allowed attending the trial

Since the court room was at full capacity with loved ones of the bloggers some friends and family members of the bloggers and journalists were forced to wait outside the court room.