Ethiopia: Opposition member sentenced to six and a half years in prison

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Opposition member Yonatan Tesfaye has been sentenced to six and a half years in prison for criticising the Ethiopian government on Facebook.

The former Blue Party spokesman was found guilty earlier this month, under the country’s anti-terror laws and sentenced on Thursday, where he faced up to 20 years imprisonment for the charges brought against him.

 

Tesfaye jailed

Yonatan Tesfaye was arrested in December 2015, during a time when anti-government protests in Ethiopia were escalating to their most violent. Tesfaye criticised the government’s handling of the demonstrations after security forces brutally clamped down on the events.

He accused the government of using “force against the people instead of peaceful discussion”. His remarks were enough for him to be arrested and charged under terrorism laws introduced in 2009, which have been used to target various political figures and journalists who speak out against government actions.

 

Rights group criticise government

Rights groups, including Amnesty International (AI), have been critical of Ethiopia’s conduct throughout the Yonatan Tesfaye’s case. AI recently branded the charges against the young opposition member as “trumped up”. Blue Party Chairman Yeshiwas Assefa says they’ll be appealing the sentence, insisting this is a simple case of freedom of expression.

Unfortunately, Ethiopian law might not agree with them, as highlighted by the charge sheet read out at Tesfaye’s sentencing:

“The defendant has acted in [a] way that threatened the country’s political, economic and social fabric,” it said, according to reports.

Rights groups have also criticised the manner in which Tesfaye was detained ahead of his trial. For more than a year he was held at Maekelawi Prison, one of Ethiopia’s most notorious jails for torturing detainees.

 

Featured image: By Vob08 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7692283

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.