Eskinder Nega was in Court today as a defense witness of our co-blogger Zelalem Workagegnehu. After verbal debates if Eskinder could be a defense witness of Zelalem, the judge finally decided that Eskinder can be a defense witness of our co-blogger. But due to time shortage, the judge postponed the hearing for January 27, 2016.
Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian citizen, who is also a permanent resident of the U.S., winner of several awards, has been serving 18 years sentence since his arrest in 2011.
Abraha Desta, a social media activist and offical of the opposition Arena Tigray party along with Abraham Solomon, also detained with Zelalem, were in Court today to act as a defense witness of our co-blogger Zelalem Workagegnehu.
Abraha testified saying that he had advised Zelalem to sign the confession statment because he was being beaten daily in the Central Prison and he knew prisoners who lost their mind (went mad) or were permanently disabled due to tortures during investigation. Abraha also said that he was told by the man who served as a witness of the prosecutors, Eyob Tadesse, who was detained with them for a while, that the prosecutors had told the later he would be released if he agreed to testify against Zelalem and his friends or rot in the prison if he refuses.
The rest of the defense witnesses including Eskinder Nega will be heard on January 27.
Zelalem Workagenehu was initially charged in October 2014 with being the local leader of Ginbot 7, conspiring violent revolution with his friends, writing and sending reports that appeared on Diaspora based websites such as this article he wrote in 2011 using his pen name, receiving money from abroad to recruit members for Ginbot 7, and facilitating asocial media and communication related training course with his friends.
However, the court dropped most of the charges and now he is defending two charges, which are receiving money (10, 000 birr) from abroad to recruit members for the opposition Ginbot 7 and facilitating the social media training.
Bahiru and Yonatan are accused of applying to the communication, online security and leadership training three years ago, which never took place.
It is anticipated that journalist Eskinder Nega would testify about the legality of such training courses.