June 2 – Abel given four month suspended prison sentence
Blogger Abel Wabela was given a four month suspended prison sentence for the so called “contempt of court” during the May 27 trial. Read Abel’s reactions here.
May 27 – Blogger Abel accused of contempt of court
The procedure continued on Wednesday morning. Some friends and family of the detained were let inside of the court room. The federal police was present too.
The defense lawyer have made statements regarding the case to the media. The prosecutor accused these statements as being jeopardizing to the case. The judge reprimanded both the prosecutor and the defense lawyer on statements they have made. Blogger Natnael Feleke then protested against allegations made by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn during a recent interview with Al Jazeera. Natnael said that the court should reprimand the Prime Minister for the incriminating statements he made during the interview.
Natnael also wanted to point out that one of the judges, who was supposed to have resigned a long time ago, is still on the case. The request by Natnael to speak about this was denied. The male members of the Zone 9 Bloggers, especially Abel Wabela, protested against the decision of denying Natnael to speak. Abel told the court to have manners, but then the court told him to either apologize or face charges of contempt of court. Abel refused to apologize. Abel requested the judge to ask a question, but was denied. He made the request several times, but then the judge warned him to behave. Abel said that he did not do anything wrong. The judges told the lawyers to bring Abel to court on June 2 on charges of contempt to court. The other members of the Zone 9 bloggers, together with the three journalists, stood by Abel in solidarity and requested the court to come with him on June 2. Blogger Befeqadu spoke up in solidarity with Abel. He said that Abel’s question is a question of the group, and that they are with him. The bloggers and journalists are showing an immense courage in protesting against the judicial injustices.
It is unclear what happened to the earlier mentioned CD:s, that is said to be evidence against the detained. The CD:s turned out to be soft copies of printed evidences.
Also, it is reported that the court has decided against further witnesses. It is also reported that a female witness, who earlier witnessed against the detained, is now called to be a witness on another “terrorism” charge .
The prosecutor only ordered one evidence to be presented; a documentary on blogger Soliyana Shimeles. It is not clear what is meant by “documentary”.
The case is adjourned for June 15, 2015, but for Abel Wabela on June 2, 2015. This was the 29 th adjournment.
May 26 – The discordant ‘trail’ will continue tomorrow morning at 9:00am
The bloggers and journalists were brought to the court room in the morning and the procedure began.
At first the loved ones of the bloggers and the journalists were allowed to seat inside of the courtroom, but many were soon told by the police to leave the court room as the number of prisoners filled the court room with its maximum capacity. As usual, only some journalists, diplomats and a few relatives were allowed to attend. There was a strict control of cell phone usage by security agents.
Mahlet and Edom were brought to the court room ahead of the other bloggers and journalists.
The Elusive CDs and audio & video evidence
Laptops, phones, SIM cards and hard drives were brought to the court room as exhibit during the trial. The CDs were however still “on their way” from Maekelawi, where they were kept originally claimed the prosecutors. Despite the prosecutors’ claim of ample audio & video ‘critical evidence’ which are allegedly on the CDs, they have not brought them to the court room. The prosecutors alleged that the CDs contain materials used by the bloggers and the journalists to incite violence.The presiding judges never asked the prosecutors for an explanation and no explanation is given on the side of the prosecutors as well. There are no CDs presented during the trial. Note that CDs were not written as ‘critical evidence’ both on the original and amended charge sheets and many questions regarding the CDs remain to be answered: What are their content? Where do they come from? Who ownes them and why are they not registered like other evidence on original charge sheet ? It is reported that the prosecutor always mumbled to obscure his responses, and that it often is impossible to hear what he was saying.
While waiting for the CDs to arrive, the court adjourned the case for an afternoon session. Soon the three remaining witnesses started to testify against Mahlet Fantahun and Tesfalem Waldyes. They have testified about the the items confiscated during the searches and seizure which happened a year ago following the bloggers and journalists arrest.
The bloggers and journalists eating lunch in the court room while waiting for the second session to continue.
The trial continued after lunch. A small TV set was brought into the court room. The prosecutor have said that they have an audio and video evidence to support their allegations. Until then people were expecting to look at the ‘critical evidence’ in the form of audio & video,however, the prosecutor made a u-turn and said they do not have audio & video but rather but rather a “documentary evidence”. It is not clear what a ‘documentary’ evidence is. And there was no cite of CDs in the court room.
The prosecutor said that two of the three witnesses will testify against the against Edom, Tesfalem and Natnael, but made several mistakes. One witness said that a laptop which belong to Abel was Edom’s. A witness of Edom claimed to have seen and signed on the CDs which he said were ‘taken’ from her home, yet the witness was unable to show the CD:s. They also had problem identifying the bloggers and journalists, and were incongruous and inconsistent in their answers. As things got messier the prosecutor made a glaring mistake which burst the audience into laughter. The prosecutor was passing a CD by alleging it was from Tesfalems laptop, but then he changed his mind and said that it was not Tesfalem’s. However,he has not saved himself from embarrassment as he could not stop the conflicting statements coming from the witnesses as they told the court that they have not seen the content of the CDs,
The three witnesses.
The case was adjourned and the defense lawyer requested copies of the CDs. The lawyers also requested the prosecutor to present all witnesses. Today only three of the 16 witnesses came. Furthermore, the lawyers have requested access to the exhibits since the prosecutors have presented a material of 30 pages against Edom, regarding media and election. The prosecutors also presented a copy of the daily state owned newspaper Addis Zemen as evidence against Edom.
The case is adjourned for tomorrow, May 27, 2015.
Melody Sundberg & Endalk Chala contributed for this report.
April 8 – Case adjourned to after the election
The hearing of the witnesses continued during the Wednesday.
One of the witnesses testified against Mahlet Fantahun. The witness said that he saw when a party manifesto was copied from her laptop. A witness on Atnaf Berhane testified that “fact” magazines were found.
Also, the Federal Police have sent a letter to the court asking them to give more time to bring the witnesses. The police and the prosecutor asked the court to be allowed to bring witnesses who have “disappeared”. So far, 18 of the 35 witnesses have been heard.
The prosecutor presented seven CD:s as evidence (read more about the 12 CD:s in earlier posts). The lawyer of the defendants said that the prosecution should present all witnesses and CD:s today. The prosecutor asked for re-adjournment of the case.
The judges went out of the court room to discuss before deciding on the adjournment. The lawyer presented his objections and protested any sort of prolonged adjournment. The case was however adjourned and the judges said that the prosecutor must present the rest of the witnesses during the coming hearings.
The hearing is adjourned until after the Ethiopian election in May.
The case will continue May 26-29, 2015. This was the 26 th adjournment.
March 31 – Witnesses not presented in said time
The hearing of the witnesses continued. As usual, many people wanting to attend the trial were not allowed to do so because of the lack of space inside of the court room. Phones was not allowed.
On the trial held March 30, the witnesses had trouble identifying the detainees, but it is reported that they could do it during the March 31 trial. It is also reported that the witnesses, so far, have only been observers of when articles have been printed from the detainees computers. The prosecutor did however try to ask them of the content of the articles, but the lawyers protested.
15 out of 17 witnesses have been presented. While it takes a long time for all the witnesses to be heard, the right to a speedy trial is violated. The lawyers asked the court to order the prosecutor to present witnesses in said time, but the prosecutor asked for more time. He also said that the detainees will be imprisoned while the search for evidence continue. One of the bloggers, Natnael Feleke, said (rough translation):
– We are not jailed alone. We are imprisoned with our families and friends. The court and the prosecutor should keep this in mind. We are suffering socially as well as economically.
The witnesses against Edom Kassaye, Mahlet Fantahun and Tesfalem Waldyes still remains to be heard.
The hearing of the witnesses and the case of the bloggers and journalists is adjourned for April 8, 2015.
March 30 – Witnesses unable to distinguish between detainees
Today the case of the Zone 9 bloggers and journalists continued in Lideta High Court, Addis Ababa.
The defendants outside of the court.
The court room was very crowded as around 70 defendants was there. Only a few relatives and friends of the detained bloggers and journalists could attend the trial, and many of them had to leave their seats to others. The bloggers and journalists was escorted through a back door.
The prosecutor requested the trial to be closed to the public, due to the security of the witnesses. The lawyers of the defendants rejected the request, saying that a closed trial is unconstitutional. The judges denied the request, and it was decided to have an open trial.
The 17 witnesses was called into the court room to testify against the bloggers. The hearing of the witnesses was then postponed for the afternoon. When the hearing continued, it was a strict control against the use of cellphones in the courtroom. Suddenly there was a power cut, and the hearing was paused, but continued after a while.
Some of the witnesses had taken part in the search of the homes of the detainees. It was however reported that the witnesses had trouble knowing who was who of the detainees. One of them asked “which one of them is Asmamaw (Hailegiorgis)?” The witness then pointed at Abel Wabela. When another witness was about to testify, she mentioned the name of a person that have nothing to do with the case, but pointed at one of the bloggers. Then, another witness mixed up a blogger with another person who also had nothing to do with the case.
The witnesses testified that they had seen articles being printed from laptops belonging to the defendants. The articles in question is texts that the bloggers and journalists have been writing on social media and in blogposts. The defendants did not deny that the articles belonged to them.
The case of the bloggers and journalists will continue tomorrow, March 31, 2015.
March 24: Lawyers request to get access CD:s not accepted
Today, the hearing of Mahlet Fantahuns’ and Edom Kassayes’ complaints regarding abuse of rights in prison took place at the Lideta High Court. Among other abuses they have, in many cases, not been allowed visits.
Earlier, the lawyer have listed the names of persons who have been denied to visit. He presented the list to the court as evidence. The judges, however, still claimed that the complaint given by the lawyer does not have any evidence that support the case. The judges said that the listed names are not applicable as evidence.
The earlier mentioned 12 CD:s is going to be exhibited as evidence during the course of trials. The lawyer argued that if the CD:s content is going to be used as evidence, then copies of the CD:s should be handed to the lawyer. However, the request to give the lawyer access to the CD:s was not accepted by the judge.
It is reported that the lawyer was very disappointed about the decision on the CD:s. Natnael Feleke, one of the bloggers, also said that the judges are denying the rights of the defendants.
Mars 19: Lawyer not yet given access to CD:s mentioned in charge sheet
Mahlet Fantahun and Edom Kassaye entered the court room on Thursday morning.
As mentioned earlier, the bloggers’ and journalists’ lawyer have not yet been given access to the 12 CD:s mentioned in the charge sheet. The judge proposed the case of the CD:s to be adjourned for the same date as the hearing of the witnesses, which will be on March 30. However, the lawyer said that he need to be given access to the CD:s, or get a reply from the prosecutor, before the hearing of the witnesses start.
The case of Mahlet and Edom is adjourned for March 24, 2015.
March 4: Case adjourned again
Mahlet Fantahun and Edom Kassaye entered the court room on Wednesday morning. Diplomats and journalists were also allowed inside, together with some of the family members and friends. However, the case of the abuse of rights in prison was adjourned again.
The bloggers’ and journalists’ lawyer have not yet been given access to the 12 CD:s mentioned in the charge sheet. The lawyer can only see and comment on the CD:s at court, during the course of trial.
The case of Mahlet and Edom is adjourned for March 19, 2015.
February 25: CD:s not yet given to lawyer
Mahlet Fantahun and Edom Kassayes complaints on abuse of rights was supposed to be heard today, but the case was adjourned for March 4, 2015.
The prosecutor has not yet given the 12 CD:s to the lawyer. The CD:s is mentioned as an evidence against the detainees.
The prosecutors response regarding the CD:s is also adjourned for March 4, 2015.
February 18: Bloggers and journalists pleaded not guilty
Wednesday began with the 20th court hearing.
As usual, many people wanting to attend the trial were not allowed to do so because of the lack of space inside of the court room. Once the court session started, it was adjourned for a few hours.
The court then continued. People attending the trial was not allowed to hold their cellphones in their hands. During the last court session, one of the judges decided to resign from the case. Today he was present again. He had not been replaced because of time consuming administrative reasons.
All bloggers and journalists pleaded not guilty.
Today is the birthday of Befeqadu Hailu, one of the jailed Zone 9 bloggers.
The case is adjourned for March 30 – April 1, 2015. Mahlet Fantahun’s and Edom Kassaye’s complains on abuse of rights will be heard on February 25.
February 4: Blogger tortured in Kilinto prison
Thursday morning it was time for the 19 th court hearing.
Today, most people wanting to attend the court were let inside. Diplomats from the US and Canadian embassies, and EU, were also present.
The defendants standing up in front of the judge.
Two days ago (read more on this below), the bloggers and their lawyer requested a replacement of the judge because he has been unfair throughout the process. Today, the application of the replacement was rejected, but the judge himself decided to resign voluntarily. However, because the request was not accepted, there was a penalty of paying a fine of 500 birr.
People reacted emotionally as Abel Wabela, one of the bloggers, told the court about happenings following yesterdays’ court hearing. Prison officials had forgot to handcuff him in the bus heading back to Kilinto prison. For this, Abel was punished:
– When we got back to prison, they tied me up with chains (dog chains) the whole day, and took away my hearing aid, Abel said.
Abel has been forced to use hearing aid as a result of worsened hearing impairment due to torture in Maekelawi.* Abel continued telling that the guards yelled at him and mistreated him, and he was also chained all night.
The judge ordered the representative of the Kilinto prison to respond on what happened to Abel. The representative denied and the judge ordered him to reply during next appointment. Also, the judge wanted the happenings to be presented in written form.
After the hearing a man was arrested. He was trying to photograph using his cellphone. His phone was confiscated and they took him inside the bus heading to the Kilinto prison. He was released after a few hours.
The case of the bloggers and journalists is adjourned for February 18, 2015. This was the 20th adjournment.
* Following their arrest, the bloggers and journalists were jailed in Maekelawi. Maekelawi is the Federal Police Crime Investigation Sector in Addis Ababa. Political prisoners, journalists, bloggers, protest organizers among others are held there before proceeding to prison. Human Rights Watch has reported about torture, coercive interrogation methods and poor detention conditions there.
February 4 trial: Decision on yesterdays’ request adjourned
Wednesday morning it was time for the 18 th court hearing.
The jailed bloggers and journalists outside of the Lideta High Court, Addis Ababa:
No other cases was heard this morning, so there was not as much people at court as yesterday. Journalists and diplomats were let inside of the court room, and later, families as well. There was a report of the police being rough, and eye contact with the defendants was not allowed.
From left: Journalist Edom Kassaye and bloggers Befeqadu Hailu, Mahlet Fantahun and Natnael Feleke.
Yesterday the bloggers and journalists asked to have the judge replaced. Today, the judge was late and despite the request the judge had not been replaced. Apparently, because one of the judges was absent yesterday, they had not decided on the request. As a result the decision will be given tomorrow instead.
The case is adjourned for tomorrow, February 5, 2015. This was the 19 th adjournment.
Bloggers asking to get judge replaced during February 3 trial
Tuesday morning it was time for the 17 th court hearing of Zone 9 bloggers and journalists.
The court compound was very crowded as cases of other political prisoners was heard too. As usual there was not enough space inside the court room. Police denied family and friends to support their loved ones by preventing them from entering the court. Only diplomats and a few journalists could attend. Also, the prisoners were escorted through the back door. This way people where prevented to show solidarity to them.
Jailed blogger Mahlet Fantahun and journalist Edom Kassaye smiling towards their supporters outside court.
Following the trial, the lawyer said that the bloggers asked to have the judge, Sheleme Bekele, replaced. The defendants claimed that the judge has not been fair since the start of the case. They mentioned that their right for a speedy trial has been violated. The bloggers want the judge to be replaced by another judge.
The bloggers request to replace the judge. Click on the thumbnails to view larger images.
The trial is adjourned for the 18th time. The next session will take place tomorrow, on February 4, 2015.
January 28 trials: Most charges accepted after the amendment
With the political election coming up in may, opposing voices are living under more oppressive conditions than ever. Three journalists and six bloggers of the group Zone 9 have been jailed since April 2014. Many trials have followed their arrest, and today it was time for the 16th hearing.
Friends and family members gathered at the compound outside of the Lideta High Court, Addis Ababa. The bloggers and journalists, seemingly in good spirit, were escorted to the court.
Usually there are not enough space for everyone wanting to attend the court room, leading to family members not being able to show support. It has also prevented journalists to report. To everyone’s surprise, people were allowed in the court room today.
The judges arrived and the bloggers were called to stand up. Their names were read and then the case was seen. During earlier court hearings there was a request to amend the charges (more on this in earlier posts). The court now accepted most of the charges. The charge not accepted was the point regarding the individual role of each defendant. The court rejected the individual roles.
The defendants was asked if they are ready to admit to the charge. The trial is expected to re-convene this afternoon, and the bloggers are then going to answer to the charges.
Following the trial, the lawyer briefed journalists and family members at the court compound. The lawyer is reported to be very disappointed. He said that he does not accept the court’s decision, and that the charges had not been amended at all. He found it to be very strange that the judges accepted it.
Many people followed the trial live on Twitter, demanding the bloggers and journalists to be released:
There were also comments of the point that had been rejected:
The trial continued in the afternoon but the lawyers asked for a short appointment. The hearing ended quickly and was adjourned to February 3, 2015.
Below are pictures from the second hearing. Click on the thumbnails to view larger images. Thanks to @lulualeb, @zesemir and others for the pictures.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
July 18, 2014
All the defendants were brought to Lideta High Court. For the first time families, friends and diplomatic community were allowed to enter the court room. The persecutor accused all the defendants of violating seven Ethiopian criminal laws including the controversial anti-terrorism law. The defendants’ lawyer asked for bail but the judge refused the bail citing that the charge is related with terrorism. The trial is adjourned for August 4 and all male and female defendants are transferred to Kilinto and Kality respectively.
July 17, 2014
A bi-weekly Amharic newspaper called the Reporter had reported that seven out of nine members of the Zone9 blogging collective and the three journalists are charged with ‘terrorism’ related activities. It was reported that the bloggers and journalists were brought to Lideta High Court late in the afternoon without prior announcement to their lawyers, family members and friends who follow the defendants’ case for the past three months. The defendants’ refused to be tried without the presence of their lawyer and the trial was re-scheduled for the next morning.
July 13, 2014
The court case of Befeqadu Hailu, Abel Wabela and Mahlet Fantahun has passed as confusing as the July 12th court case. In similar manner the case was referred to Federal High Court.
July 12, 2014
The court case of Atnaf Berahane, Zelalem Kibret, Natnael Feleke, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Tesfalem Waldyes and Edom Kassaye is set to continue at Federal High Court. This day’s court case was particularly confusing as the defendants, their lawyer and families were not allowed entry to the court. The decision why the court referred the case to the high court without any argument from the defendants’ lawyer is not clear. Beside the exact trial day at the Federal High Court is not known.
June 29, 2014
Befeqadu Hailu, Abel Wabela and Mahlet Fantahun were brought before the court for the fifth time again without apparent charge. The hearing was adjourned before it even started because 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 the 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.
June 14, 2014
Atnaf Berahane, Zelalem Kibret, Natnael Feleke, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Tesfalem Waldyes and Edom Kassaye were brought before the court for the fourth time. Police requested another additional 28 days again. The court granted an additional 28 days of investigation. The next hearing is set to be on July 12, 2014.
June 1, 2014
Befeqadu Hailu, Abel Wabela and Mahlet Fantahun brought before the court for the fourth time again without apparent charge. The same court which rejected the extended 28 days request of the police two weeks earlier granted the police 28 days and the next hearing will be on June 29.
May 18, 2014
In similar manner to the first group of bloggers the second group of bloggers namely Befeqadu Hailu, Abel Wabela and Mahlet Fantahun brought before the court for the third time. Police requested additional 28 days for investigation but the court rejected the extended 28 days and asked the police to bring the detainees for the hearing on June 1, 2014.
May 17, 2014
Atnaf Berahane, Zelalem Kibret, Natnael Feleke, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Tesfalem Waldyes and Edom Kassaye brought before the same court for the third time in a row without apparent charge. Again police requested additional 28 days for further investigation. In an apparent shift from earlier accusations police claimed the detainees are investigated with terrorism related charges. The court granted additional 28 days for investigation.The next hearing was re-scheduled to take place on June 14, 2014 at the same court.
May 8, 2014
Befekadu Hailu, Abel Wabela, and Mahlet Fantahun were brought before the same court. According to multiple reports, two of the bloggers claimed they were beaten. Police requested more time for their investigation. The next hearing for the three is scheduled to take place on May 18, 2014.
Both hearings were closed to the public, despite many attempts by diplomats and others to attend.
May 7, 2014
Atnaf Berahane, Zelalem Kibret, Natnael Feleke, Asmamaw Hailegeorgis, Tesfalem Waldyes and Edom Kassaye were brought before an Addis Ababa court. At the brief hearing, police requested more time for their investigation. The next hearing for the six is scheduled to take place on May 17, 2014.
April 27, 2014
All nine individuals were brought before a judge Criminal Bench at the Arada Federal First Instance Court without the presence of their legal counsel or family members. The court ordered that they should be remanded in custody. Befekadu Hailu, Mahlet Fantahun and Abel Wabela were remanded in custody until May 8, 2014 and the other detainees until May 7, 2014.
According to reliable sources, the court record shows that the police requested remand for the detainees to obtain further evidence that they were “inciting chaos and violence through different websites pursuant to a plan to destabilise the country using social media by getting financial and intellectual support from a foreign force which calls itself a human rights defender”. The name of the organisation is not specified.
April 26, 2014
Asmamaw Hailegeorgis was arrested.
All nine men and women were taken to Maekelawi prison, a Federal detention centre in Addis Ababa, where detainees are widely reported to be routinely subject to coercive torture methods.
April 25, 2014
The six bloggers and human rights defenders from Zone9 were arrested at their offices and in the street on the afternoon of April 25, 2014 by both uniformed and plainclothed policemen. All six were first taken to their homes, where police conducted searches and confiscated private laptops and literature.
Freelance journalists Tesfalem Waldyes and Edom Kassaye were also arrested.
April 23, 2014
Facing increasing harassment and surveillance by the authorities, the Zone9 bloggers had temporarily suspended their activities over the last six months. The group announced on April 23, 2014 on social media that they were resuming their activities.