Ethiopian Journalist who received Golden Pen Award appears in court as witness in terrorism trial
A journalist who has been jailed seven times after criticising the Ethiopian Government’s detainment of journalists as suspected terrorists has appeared in court as a witness in a terrorism trial.
Eskinder Nega, who was awarded the Golden Pen Award of Freedom in 2014, is currently serving an eighteen year prison sentence after being convicted of terrorism. He was subpoenaed as a defence witness in the trial of Yonatan Tesfaye, a former spokesman of the opposition Semayawi (Blue) party and rights activists in Ethiopia.
The terrorism charges against Yonatan allege that he was posting inciting messages on Facebook, encouraging protesters to loot during the Oromo Protests. The Oromo Protests were a movement which called for an end to decades of systemic exclusion and subordination of the Oromo – the single largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.
Speaking against the charges, Yonatan told the judges that he had done nothing to foment terrorism or overthrow the government violently. But he spoke and wrote in defence of those who were being killed by government security forces on the streets during the protests. “If speaking for those killed on the streets constitutes a crime, I will take it as my badge of honour. I will get my judgment form history and God,” he said.
Prosecutor’s also accuse Yonatan that his Facebook posts were in line with the objectives of a party banned as a terrorist organisation. Defence witnesses stated that terrorism charges were “too serious” to have been evoked for Facebook posts, where people turn into as a mere space for freedom of expression.
Journalist Eskindir Nega and the rest of the defense witnesses, including family members of Yonatan, are expected to give their testimonials during the next hearing, adjourned until January 26.