Eskinder Nega marvelously defends our co-blogger Zelalem Workagegnehu

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05-2-2016

Eskinder Nega AI Pic
Eskinder Nega AI Pic

Zela

International awards winning, seasoned Ethiopian journalist, serving an 18 year sentence in Kaliti Prison, Ethiopia, Eskinder Nega, has today defended our co-blogger, Zelalem Workagagenhu.

Eskinder’s defense today was made possible after three adjournments by the judges.  In the last proceeding on 27-1-2016, the judges stated that they had to decide on the “Contents of Eskinder’s testimony” and had adjourned it for February 5, 2016.

Eskinder was named as one of the defense witnesses of our co-blogger Zelalem Workagegnehu and his two colleagues Yonatan Wolde and Bahiru Degu, who were charged, among other counts, with applying for a online security, communication and leadership training. The course never took place. Eskinder  was expected to give a professional testimony regarding the nature of such courses and what blogging means.

Eskinder appeared wearing a full black suit, black eye glasses and sandals.

Eskinder, then, was asked his full name, address, work and if he knew the defendants. Responding to the questions, Eskinder said he used to work as a journalist. Asked what his current job is, Eskinder responded saying “I am a prisoner of conscience.”

In his defense statement, Eskinder said that many international human rights organisations offer courses on human rights, media ethics and democracy to people from across many countries, not just in to Ethiopians. He said ” although the organisations are different their principles on human rights issues are similar and universal.”

Eskinder added and said “many of these organisations, for example Freedom House, C.P.J. Amnesty International or Article 19  are based in the Western world, where democracy has developed.  I had also attended a training course offered by one of these organisations in Addis Abeba. The training was on human rights, media and democracy. The training had nothing to do with terror or terrorism. The fact that this was presented as an evidence  would embarrass Ethiopia and it is a pity.”

Before Eskinder finished defending Zelalem and his friends, the judge asked him when he was arrested. Eskinder said ” I was arrested in September 2011 and was falsely charged and unfairly sentenced to 18 years imprisonment.”

Zelalem, who is defending himself in Court without any lawyer, explained to the Court that he sought Eskinder’s defense so that the latter could testify what blogging means, if blogging has any link with criminal activity, about social media and human rights training and the organisations that offer such courses. However, the government’s prosecutor opposed the contents stating that the legality of blogging cannot be proven by witnesses but by legislation.

Eskinder Nega, an Ethiopian citizen, who is also a permanent resident of the U.S., who returned to his native Ethiopian over 20 years ago to start newspaper business, having been convinced that the current regime’s promise of free press and expression was not skin deep, is taken by many as a living evidence of press repression in Ethiopia. Eskinder remains to be the only Ethiopian journalist in the nation’s history, who has been arrested more than eight times within 20 years and serving one of the longest sentences handed to an Ethiopian journalist, 18 years.

It is now the first time that Eskinder Nega was out of Kaliti prison in nearly five years to defend any individual.

Most of Zelalem’s defense witnesses have already been heard except Andargachew Tsige, the Secretary General of Ginbot 7 Movement, who was abducted from Sanaa Airport, Yemen by Ethiopian securities in June 2014. Zelalem named Andargachew to testify because in the  charge files, he is also accused of having a contact with him before he was arrested. Zelalem today said, although the court ordered the prison administrations to summon Andargachew Tsige, the government has been unwilling to do so.

Zelalem said “What I have understood now is that for the government which has accused me, it is easier to acquit me rather than present Andargachew Tsige as a defense witness.”

Zelalem said that it is therefore proper that the Andargachew is summoned as a witness given that I had been accused of interacting with Andargachew via different methods of communication.

Zalelam said,  otherwise, the court should remove the tenets of the charge in relation to Andargachew and pass decisions on the rest of the points.

The court ordered that Andrgachew should be summoned before the court and adjourned  for Monday, 25th January 2016 to hear the defense witness.

Zelalem Workagenehu, co-blogger of De Birhan Blog, was initially charged in October 2014 with being the local leader of Ginbot 7 opposition Movement, conspiring violent revolution with his friends (such as this writer), 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.

The Amharic report below is taken from Negere Ethiopia’s Facebook page: 

ጋዜጠኛ እስክንድር ነጋ የምስክርነት ቃሉን ሰጠ
*‹‹የህሊና እስረኛ ነኝ›› እስክንድር ነጋ

በነገረ ኢትዮጵያ ሪፖርተር

በሽብርተኝነት ወንጀል ጥፋተኛ ተብሎ 18 አመት እስር ተፈርዶበት በእስር ላይ የሚገኘው ጋዜጠኛ እስክንድር ነጋ የመከላከያ ምስክርነት ቃሉን ሰጥቷል፡፡
በእነ ዘላለም ወርቃገኘሁ የክስ መዝገብ አንደኛ ተከሳሽ ለሆነው አቶ ዘላለም ወርቃገኘሁ መከላከያ ምስክር ሆኖ ልደታ ከፍተኛው ፍርድ ቤት 19ኛ ወንጀል ችሎት ከእስር ቤት የቀረበው ጋዜጠኛ እስክንድር ዛሬ ጥር 27/2008 ዓ.ም ምስክርነቱን ሊያሰማ ችሏል፡፡
ያለጠበቃ በግሉ የሚከራከረው ተከሳሽ ዘላለም ወርቃገኘሁ ጋዜጠኛ እስክንድር እንዲያስረዳለት የሚፈልገው ጭብጥ ጡመራ ምንድነው፣ ከወንጀል ጋርስ ግንኙነት አለው ወይ፣ እና ሰብዓዊ መብት እና ዴሞክራሲ ላይ ስልጠና ስለሚሰጡ ድርጅቶችና የስልጠናው ይዘትን በተመለከተ እንደሆነ ቢያስታውቅም በጭብጡ ላይ አቃቤ ህግ ተቃውሞውን አሰምቷል፡፡ በዚህም አቃቤ ህግ ጡመራ ምንድነው፣ ወንጀልስ ነው ወይ የሚለው በምስክር ሳይሆን በህግ ድንጋጌዎች የሚረጋገጥ እንደሆነ በመግለጽ ተቃውሟል፡፡ ፍርድ ቤቱም ግራ ቀኙን ከሰማ በኋላ ጡመራ ወንጀል ስለመሆን አለመሆኑ የተያዘውን ጭብጥ ውድቅ በማድረግ ስለ ስልጠናውና አሰልጣኝ ተቋማት የተመዘገበው ጭብጥ ላይ ምስክሩ እንዲመሰክሩ ብይን ሰጥቷል፡፡
ብይኑን ተከትሎ ምስክሩ ጋዜጠኛ እስክንድር ነጋ ችሎት ፊት የቀረበ ሲሆን በመጀመሪያ በፍርድ ቤቱ የቀረቡለትን ጥያቄዎች መልሷል፡፡ ምስክሩ ሙሉ ስሙን፣ እድሜውን፣ ስራውንና ለምን እንደመጣ፣ እንዲሁም ከተከሳሾች ጋር ስለመተዋወቁ ለቀረቡለት ጥያቄዎች መልስ ሰጥቷል፡፡ እስክንድር ‹‹ስራ›› ተብሎ ሲጠየቅ፣ ‹‹ጋዜጠኛ ነበርኩ›› ብሏል፡፡ ‹‹አሁንስ›› የሚል ጥያቄ ፍርድ ቤቱ አቅርቦለት፣ ‹‹አሁን የህሊና እስረኛ ነኝ›› ሲል መልሷል፡፡
ተከሳሹ ዘላለም ወርቃገኘሁ በዋና ጥያቄ ተከሳሹ ውጭ ሀገር ሊወስደው ነበር ተብሎ በክሱ ላይ ስለተጠቀሰው ስልጠና ምስክሩ እንዲያብራሩለት ጠይቋል፡፡ ምስክሩም ‹‹ዓለም አቀፍ የሰብዓዊ መብት ተቋማት ኢትዮጵያን ብቻ ሳይሆን ሌሎች ሀገራትንም የሚያሳትፍ ስልጠና በሰብዓዊ መብት፣ በሚዲያ ‹ኢቲክስ›፣ እና በዴሞክራሲ ላይ ይሰጣሉ፡፡ ድርጅቶቹ የተለያዩ ቢሆንም በሰብዓዊ መብት ጉዳይ ላይ መርሃቸው ተመሳሳይና ዓለም አቀፍ ነው›› በማለት መስክሯል፡፡
ድርጅቶቹን በስም መጥቀስና የሚገኙበትንም ሀገር ለፍርድ ቤቱ መግልጽ ይቻል እንደሆነ ምስክሩ ተጠይቆ ‹‹የተቋማቱ መገኛ ምዕራቡ ዓለም ነው፡፡ በዴሞክራሲ የዳበሩ ሀገራት ነው ዋና መቀመጫቸው፡፡ ሲ.ፒጄ፣ ፍሪደም ሀውስ፣ አምንስቲ ኢንተርናሽናል እና አርቲክል 19 የመሳሰሉትንም በስም መጥቀስ ይቻላል፡፡ እኔም ከነዚህ ተቋምት ውስጥ በአንዱ የተሰጠ ስልጠና አዲስ አበባ ላይ ተካፍየ ነበር፡፡ ስልጠናው ስለ ሰብዓዊ መብት፣ ስለ ሚዲያ፣ ስለ ዴሞክራሲ የሚያስተምር ነው፡፡ ስልጠናው ከሽብር ጋር ምንም ግንኙነት የለውም፤ ይህ እንደማስረጃ መቅረቡ ኢትዮጵያን ትዝብት ውስጥ የሚከትና የሚያሳዝን ነው›› ሲል ምስክርነቱን ሰጥቷል፡፡
ጋዜጠኛ እስክንድር ነጋ መቼ እንደታሰረ በመስቀለኛ ጥያቄ ተጠይቆ ‹‹መስከረም 2004 የሀሰት ክስ ቀርቦብኝ፣ በግፍ ተፈርዶብኝ ታስሬ እገኛለሁ›› ሲል መልሷል፡፡ እስክንድር ነጋ ጥቁር ሱፍ በደብዛዛ ሸሚዝ ለብሶ፣ ሙሉ ጥቁር መነጸር አድርጎና ነጠላ ጫማ ተጫምቶ ችሎት ፊት ቀርቧል፡፡
አንደኛ ተከሳሽ ዘላለም ወርቃገኘሁ ምስክሩ ምስክርነቱን ማጠቃለሉን ተከትሎ በመከላከያ ምስክርነት እንዲቀርቡለት የጠራቸው ሌላኛው ምስክር አቶ አንዳርጋቸው ጽጌ በተደጋጋሚ እንዲቀርቡለት ትዕዛዝ እንዲሰጥለት የጠየቀ ቢሆንም እስካሁን አለመቅረባቸው መንግስት ግለሰቡን ለማቅረብ ፍላጎት እንደሌለው ያሳያል ሲል ቅሬታውን አሰምቷል፡፡ ‹‹አሁን የተረዳሁት ነገር ከሳሼ የሆነው መንግስት አቶ አንዳርጋቸውን ከሚያቀርብ እኔን በነጻ መልቀቅ እንደሚቀለው ነው›› ብሏል ተከሳሹ፡፡
ተከሳሹ ከአቶ አንዳርጋቸው ጽጌ ጋር በተለያዩ የመገናኛ ዘዴዎች እንደተገናኜ አቃቤ ህግ መጥቀሱን በማስታወስ ምስክሩ መቅረባቸው ያለውን ተገቢነት አስረድቷል፡፡ ‹‹ምስክሩ እንዲቀርቡልኝ እፈልጋለሁ፡፡ ይህ የማይሆን ከሆነ ግን ፍርድ ቤቱ ከምስክሩ ጋር በተገናኘ ያለውን የክሱ ፍሬ ነገር አውጥቶ በቀሪው ላይ ብይን ይስጥልኝ›› ብሏል ተከሳሹ አቶ ዘላለም፡፡
ፍርድ ቤቱም ምስክሩ አቶ አንዳርጋቸው ጽጌ እንዲቀርቡ ትዕዛዝ በመስጠት ምስክርነታቸውን ለመስማት በሚል ለየካቲት 16/2008 ዓ.ም ተለዋጭ ቀጠሮ ሰጥቷል፡፡

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