Contextual translation of the charges of the Zone9 bloggers

Prelude on EPRDFization of terrorism charges

Before I give a brief contextual translation of the charges of the Zone9 bloggers it is important to highlight the EPRDF-ization of terrorism charges and later trials of the bloggers to paint a broader picture of why Ethiopian government have indicted more than 15 journalists and bloggers with terrorism charges  in the last three years alone. The Amharic 19 pages of charge sheets is available here.

The terrorism trials instigated by Ethiopian government led to the exile of many journalists including those who are described as the most balanced and mature ones. The Ethiopian government terrorism trials are generally seen as part of government’s approach to try to have a power on every dissenting voice of the country. This is what I call the EPRDFization of terrorism charges . The translated version of the charges will indisputably show how far the incompetent authorities of Ethiopia will go to squash an honest, candid and civic minded young bloggers who have had a trust on the Ethiopian Constitution. The bloggers have campaigned for the respect of the constitution.But Ethiopian authorities repress people in the name of fighting terrorism and protecting the constitution. What is more hurting is the government has related the bloggers with diaspora based political organizations on which the bloggers have leveraged significant amount of criticism. Sometimes the bloggers have been even more critical on these political organizations than the government itself. It is nauseating to be accused of irrelevant political organizations that have neither ideological nor material relationship with the bloggers. The absurdity of the charges does not even stop with this; the two political organizations Ginbot7 & OLF, which the bloggers have allegedly received assistance have immense ideological hostilities.

Hence, the translation of the charges and the usage of legal parlance in the process is not to rationalize the trial of the bloggers. Absolutely not, but it is to show the contemptible nature of the Ethiopian justice system and useless Ethiopian authorities. I strongly believe that the injustice of the Zone9 bloggers and their ally journalists is just a tip of the iceberg.

Note on the translation of the charges

Now to the contextual translation of the charges but ahead of that a note on the translation. Seven out of nine members of the blogging collective and three journalists were all charged with the specified violations stated under Ethiopian laws stated below. The Amharic phrasing of the crimes is repetitive and tedious which makes it difficult to translate the charges in to English in the most sensible manner for someone who is not familiar with Ethiopian legal system. The translator strongly believes that the verbosity of the charges is an apparent suggestion for the sham nature of the trial. Hence, I will only translate specific allegations which are germane to advocacy efforts of exonerating the innocent civic minded bloggers and journalists. All the names of the bloggers and the journalists with their role in the  alleged transgression are listed in the charge sheet.

Charge One

  1. Violation of Article 32 sub-articles 1 & 2 of the 2004 criminal code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  2. Violation of Article 38 sub-articles 1 & 2 of the 2004 criminal code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  3. Violation of Article 4 of the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

If you need to read on the above particular articles which the government have accused  the bloggers  to have violated. You can read here and here.

Specifications 1

Since May 2012 the group purposely organized themselves clandestinely to participate in criminal activities. The group has divided themselves into three division of work as research, advocacy and foreign relation. All of them have sought and received support (financial, strategic & ideological) from two forbidden terrorist organizations called Ginbot 7/May 15 and OLF (Oromo Liberation Front). Beside, creating an encrypted line of communications with ESAT, which is the charge sheet claimed to be the mouthpiece of Ginbot 7 the bloggers and the journalists have reported their activities to ESAT (Diaspora based Radio & Television Organization)

Specification 2

In the process of their criminal activities which were impeded as soon as their capture on 25th and 26th of April 2014 the bloggers and the journalists have participated on various trainings. They have traveled out of the country on various occasions to partake in these trainings. They have also organized the trainings in the country. In the trainings the suspects have learned how to encrypt their online communications from a software package called ‘Security in a Box’

If you want to know more on what ‘Security in a Box’  is please click here

Charge Two

  1.  Violation of Article 27 sub-articles 1 & 2 of the 2004 criminal code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  2. Violation of Article 32 sub-articles 1 & 2 of the 2004 criminal code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  3. Violation of Article 38 sub-articles 1 of the 2004 criminal code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
  4. Violation of Article 238 sub-articles 1 of the 2004 criminal code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

While the media have widely reported the charges in light of the controversial anti-terrorism proclamation of the 2009 the bloggers and journalists have faced even grim charges such as outrages against the constitution or the constitutional order as it is stipulated in the Article 238 sub-articles 1 of the 2004 criminal code of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. Again if you need to read the articles the government claimed to have been violated by the bloggers. Read them here.


From the day of their establishment in May 2012 until they were caught in April 2014 the group has intentionally organized themselves to overthrow, modify or suspend the Federal or State Constitution; or by violence, threats, or conspiracy. They have received trainings from banned political organizations to carry out the crimes stipulated on charge two. All the journalists and bloggers are indicted with


The prosecutor presented various evidence in support of their allegations. In the charge sheets the prosecutors claimed that they have both human and material evidence to support their allegations. But the prosecutor have not listed the names of the human evidences also know as witnesses. It is claimed that for the sake of witnesses protection as predetermined by Ethiopian law the prosecutors are not required to present a list of the people who will testify against the bloggers and journalists.

  1. The confessions which are made by the bloggers and journalists are attached by the prosecutor as a proof of their crime
  2. Manuscript, digital documents and physical evidence

From the charges sheets most of them are articles which the bloggers have written in span of two years, which are available on this blog. But some of the evidences the prosecutors claimed will support their allegations are the following:

  1. The political programs of Ginbot 7 and OLF
  2. A reflection article based on Wael Ghonim’s book of ‘Revolution 2.0
  3. Security in a Box: Tools & Tactics in Digital Security
  4. Stop Censorship: An Online Campaign Plan
  5. Email exchanges between members of the Zone9 blogging collectives
  6. Travel itineraries of the bloggers and passports
  7. Articles about issues on Ethio-Telecom and its functions
  8. Defamatory articles on Ethiopian government, constitution and government authorities
  9. Documents located on USB drives of the bloggers
  10. List of interviewees for documentary made on Ethiopia’s Freedom of Expression
  11. A Domain name called
  12. Documents on how to have secure pass phrases and message encryption
  13. The physical movements of the bloggers and journalists, their meeting points from surveillance results
  14. Files which indicate the money they have received from different organizations
  15. Written articles of different sizes
  16. Laptops
  17. Hard disc drives
  18. USB drives
  19. SIM Cards
  20. Smart phones
  21. CDs

2 responses to “Contextual translation of the charges of the Zone9 bloggers

  1. Pingback: Once upon a time, there was a blog | Claudio Maria Lerario

  2. Pingback: » Ethiopian Arrests for Internet Security Training Undermine Right to Privacy

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