De Birhan Blog’s co-blogger and rights activist Zelalem Workagegnehu, who was sentenced to five years and two months impriosnment by the Ethiopian court on May 10, 2016, had his appeal heard by the Supreme Court in Addis Abeba today.
Zelalem was transferred to Zeway Prison, 140km from Addis Abeba last month but he is in Addis Abeba Kaliti Prison, in Addis Abeba to act as a witness of some of his former inmates.
According to sources who attended today’s appeal, Zelalem argued that first his sentencing mitigation has not been fully considered and secondly, his sentencing mitigation were considered at two levels while it should have been at three. Thirdly, he said he should not be given higher level of sentence simply based on single sentencing aggravation submitted by the prosecutor.
The judges postponed the appeal hearing to tomorrow to give date for verdict. Zelalem does not have to appear in person but will be informed about his next date of appearance through the Court’s Office.
Zelalem was finishing his Masters Degree in Public Administration at the Addis Abeba University, in July 2014 when he was detained together with nine other opposition politicians, netizens, and activists.
The Court had acquitted five of the defendants in August 2015 and two more of Zelalem’s co-defendants on April 15, 2016 when it found Zelalem and two other co-defendants of Zelalem guilty of “supporting terror in any way.”
The movement he is accused of supporting is known as Ginbot 7 (Arebgenoch Ginbot 7 Movement), a pro-democracy movement founded by Professor Berhanu Nega, an Ethiopian economist, who lectured in Bucknell University, U.S.A. Zelalem was initially accused of being a member and local leader of Ginbot 7 although the charges were later changed to recruiting members to start an Arab Spring styled revolution in Ethiopia and applying for a digital security course.
PEN International started a Call for Action for Zelalem Workagegnehu last month through its Rapid Action Network. Everyone is asked to go to PEN’s WEBSITE and post the letter to the named officials and embassies across the world.