Blogger and activist Zelalem Workagegnehu has been released on parole today after serving the majority of his sentence. He was arrested in July 2014 and was sentenced in May 2016 to five years jail.
We are in a state of great happiness.
Zelalem has been appealing the sentencing since May 2016 and the Cessation Court had upheld the sentencing later the same year.
Zelalem was about to complete 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 in June 2016 through its Rapid Action Network asking the world to go to PEN’s WEBSITE and post the letter to the named officials and embassies across the world.
We are delighted that our brave, humble and intelligent activist and blogger colleague has been paroled but he should not have been put in jail in the first place. There are still so many writers and activists, whose names and faces we know and we do not know suffering in various Ethiopian jails at the moment. They should be freed now!
We would like to thank various individuals and organisations that have stood with us in campaigning for Zelalem’s release and helped in multi-faceted ways.