May 10: Co-Blogger Zelalem Will Be Sentenced; Prosecutor submits sentencing aggravation statement




The Co-Blogger of De Birhan Blog, Zelalem Workagegnehu, who spent the last 658 days unjustly arrested in an Ethiopian prison, is set to be sentenced on May 10, 2016.

In today’s Court session, the Public Prosecutor submitted a sentencing aggravation statement to the Court in writing. Zelalem was also told to submit a sentencing mitigation letter before the sentencing date to the office of the Court.

The  Federal High Court 19th Criminal Bench in a long and unclear verdict had acquitted two of Zelalem’s co-defendant’s Yonatan Wolde and Bahiru Degu on April 15, 2016, while finding Zelalem “guilty” of trespassing the Ethiopian Anti-Terror Proclamation of 2009.

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 like this article he wrote in 2011 using his pen name, receiving money from abroad to recruit members for Ginbot 7, and facilitating a social media and communication related training course with his friends.

However, the court dropped most of the charges and  he was defending two charges, which were receiving money (10, 000 birr) from abroad to recruit members for the opposition Ginbot 7 and facilitating the social media training. It has remained unclear on what counts the Court found Zelalem guilty, when his co-defendants, charged under the same count, were acquitted.

Yonatan and Bahiru were charged with applying for the digital security course, which is framed as “a course to terrorize Ethiopia” by government prosecutors. Now that has been dropped, they are “freed”. They were in Court today to follow the trial of their colleague, Zelalem, who was their inmate two weeks ago.

In today’s trail session, over 20 defendants of Ethiopian opposition leaders including Bekele Gerba and activists from the  Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) were in Court charged under the Anti-Terror Proclamation, all set to appear again on May 10, 2016.