A court in Ethiopia has upheld the harsh sentence meted out last year on a journalist and an opposition political figure. While dismissing two of the four charges, the nation’s Federal Supreme Court upheld the original 18-year prison term for journalist Eskinder Nega and the life sentence for political opposition leader Andualem Arage, saying the sentences were correct and not subject to reduction.
Accused of having links to the outlawed opposition group Ginbot 7, both men were tried under Ethiopia’s strict 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation and under the civil code for high treason for allegedly wanting to spark an Arab Spring-type event in Ethiopia, yet no compelling evidence was presented to suggest that the defendants were engaged in anything more than legitimate political dissent.
The United States is deeply disappointed in the court’s decision. The ruling further reinforces our serious concerns about Ethiopia’s politicized prosecution of those critical of the government and ruling party.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has a right to freedom of opinion and expression, and that this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any medium. That right is also enshrined in Ethiopia’s constitution.
We believe that upholding freedom of expression, association and other human rights is essential if Ethiopia is to realize its stated goal of being a democratic state. We continue to urge the release of Eskinder, Andualem and of all those imprisoned in Ethiopia for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.