The order was made today at the Federal High Court in the capital, Addis Ababa, where nine out of the 10 accused are standing trial for collaborating with a U.S.-based opposition group, Ginbot 7, which is classified as a terrorist organization by Ethiopia’s government.
The charges “simply say these suspects organized themselves and designed terrorism without mentioning what kind of terrorism did they plot as defined under Article 3” of a 2009 anti-terrorism law, Ameha Mekonnen, the defense lawyer, said today in an interview in Addis Ababa.
Ethiopia is the second-worst jailer of journalists in Africa after Eritrea, its neighbor, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The U.S. has said previous convictions contravene freedom of speech rights protected by the constitution. Former newspaper editor Temesgen Desalegn received a 3-year sentence last month for publishing articles deemed to incite ethnic strife and the public to overthrow the government.
The court asked prosecutors to elaborate on the “clandestine” acts and the roles of each of the Zone 9 group bloggers and journalists in plots, Communications Minister Redwan Hussien said by phone today. “They ordered the prosecutor to come up with the clarification,” he said.
Judges today rejected a second charge under the 2004 Criminal Code of inciting public revolt because it was covered by the first, Ameha said. The next hearing is on Dec. 3, he said.