Monthly Archives: June 2014

The staged ‘hearing’ of the three bloggers Abel, Befeqadu and Mahlet concluded with another appointment for 6th time.

A Brief hearing yet very late start

The dramatic Sunday morning hearing was adjourned before it even started a the court registrar did not show up for the hearing but yet again set to continue as the registrar popped up out of nowhere. The judge decided to proceed with hearing that did not last for more than ten minutes and the hearing is adjourned for Monday 14th of July 2014 even though the police asked for more additional two weeks. The hearing started at least thirty minutes later than its scheduled time.

In side Arada Court Compound

Inside Arada Court Compound

Police Harassment

More than 300 hundred people have appeared to Arada First Instance Court to show solidarity with bloggers among which two individuals who tried to take a picture of the bloggers while they are being escorted to the court room are detained by the police. The fate of the detained individuals is not instantly clear. However eye witnesses detailed through their Twitter that individuals were harassed by the police. Attendees reported that the security was intense and the police forced them out from court ground.

False Confessions & Frustrations

Befeqadu Hailu reported to the court that he is made to make false confessions. He told the court anything which will come against him is not his confessions. The people who are forced to attend the hearing from a distance are frustrated and they compare the situation with an occupied militarily zone. The attendees waved their hands in greetings and give a message of support while the bloggers being escorted to the court room but police denied the crowd not to greet them by making the bloggers stay in the court room until crowd dispersed.

 

Defendants’ lawyer Ato Amaha briefing the  crowd

Defendants’ lawyer Ato Amaha briefing the crowd

This is all we have for today for more details please follow the #freezone9bloggers hash tag with still lively thread of discussions.

Pre-trial custody of Zone9ers ‘legal’ issues what they mean and why they matter

It is Sunday at 10:00 am, and the three founding members of the collective blog Zone9, Mahlet, Abel & Befeqadu are expected to be brought to Arada first instance court for their 5th day of proceedings in their ‘hearing’

From left to right: Abel, Mahlet and Befeqadu

From left to right: Abel, Mahlet and Befeqadu

From inciting violence using social media to working with foreign NGOs to activities related with terrorism are swiping accusations brought to Zone9 bloggers and journalists since the last week of April 2014. Zone9ers have spent the last 65 days without a meaningful ‘legal’ charge in pre-trial detention centre called Maekalwi located in the center of Addis Ababa.

The State coordinated violence on zone9 bloggers is not a single story of repression in Ethiopia but the harassment which targeted Zone9 bloggers have shocked many because they are a freethinking members of the small but vibrant Ethiopian online community. Their forced absence from their beloved expression platform-the Internet is noticeable particularly on this World Cup season on which they would have commented, joked, betted or criticized. They’re unlawfully apprehended. Here we outline the main ‘legal’ issues, what they mean and why they matter

Q: I just want to know why does Ethiopian government have taken so long to at least ‘properly’ indict the detained bloggers.

This is a very broad question which raises core issues about the genuinenity of the Ethiopian Justice System. Apparently, the government failed to invent ‘evidences’ which could support their accusations. That’s why, we say the bloggers arrest is political and the delayed procedure will even strengthen its political nature.

Q: What reasons have been given for the extended pre-trial procedures or hearing?

So far the investigators (the police) have been giving all sorts of excuses to put off the ‘trial’. They are all “the dog ate my homework” types of excuses. Just to mention few of them: “We have only a single not properly working computer since we are investigating Twitter & WordPress blog we need time”(seriously this is not a joke); “Since the bloggers committed the ‘crime’ with their associates we need to catch their associates ” “Their associates are trying to frighten us not to do out investigation”

Q: So what is this pre-trial procedure or hearing you are talking about?

It is procedure of keeping people in custody before the start of their trial. In common law tradition it is called remand. It is assumed remand prisoners are not guilty until proven otherwise but in Ethiopian justice system most of the time it is the inverse- you are guilty until proven otherwise.

Q: But how long should it take? Is there a time limit on this procedure?

Well it depends from country to country I heard an Ethiopian law expert saying it should not take more than four months.

Q: Are you saying the bloggers will get released if the investigators could not cook up kind of charge until this time cap?

No, I am just trying to refer to the Ethiopian law. We all know that these are fake procedures

Officials have already determined the guilt of the bloggers and journalists. These procedures have their only goal to present the accusation to the public as an impressive example and as a warning to other would-be bloggers. That is the reason why the government is always talking about the collaborators of the bloggers. The intention is to make this procedure to be retributive rather than a proper hearing building up into trial and also conducted for propagandistic purposes.

Partial view of Maekelawi detention center (rear  gate)

Partial view of Maekelawi detention center (rear gate)

Families and friends who need to visit their loved ones have to wait until 9:00 am in a rear gate. Then they will be asked to leave after a while. In a country where citizens have a limited chance  of visiting inmates these kinds of chances are like oasis and people will stay until the end‏.