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Investigation stalls in case of nine detained journalists and bloggers

(Reporters Without Borders) Nine journalists who were arrested on 25 and 26 April continue to be detained pending trial. When the latest detention hearing in their case was held on 14 June, a judge gave the police yet more time to complete their investigation and finally determine the charges.

The nine journalists remain in jail waiting for the next hearing. Tesfalem Waldyes of Addis Standard, Edom Kasaye, a former Addis Zemen employee, Asmamaw Hailegiorgis of Addis Guday and Zone9 blog collective members Atnaf Berhane, Mahlet Fantahun, Befekadu Hailu, Abel Wabella, Natnail Feleke and Zelalem Kibret have been held for more than 50 days.

Immediately after their arrests, they appeared in court on charges of “working with foreign organizations claiming to be human rights activists to destabilize the nation” and “receiving funding in order to incite the public to violence via social media.”

When the next hearing was held on 17 May (after a postponement), the court gave the police permission to hold them for another 28 days to continue investigating suspected violations of the 2009 anti-terrorism act, which can carry imprisonments sentences from 5 to 10 years. The 28 days expired on 14 June.

Reporters Without Borders has learned that the court in the Addis Ababa district of Arada allowed the police to hold them in detention for another 28 days at the 14 June hearing. This decision was taken after the police argued that complications had arisen and they needed more time to gather the required evidence.

For the third time since their arrest, the judge agreed to the request on the condition that the police complete their investigation and finalize the charges by the next hearing.

Three of the Zone9 bloggers – Fantahun, Hailu and Wabella – did not appear in court on 14 June. Without explaining why, the police have decided that their case should be handled separately, with the next hearing in their case being postponed until 28 June.

The next hearing for the other three Zone9 bloggers and the three print media journalists has been set for 13 July.

To read previous reports by Reporters Without Borders, please click here



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