nazret.com – Ethiopian court reduces the jail term of political prisoner Yonatan Tesfaye by three years. Yonatan, a former spokesperson for the Blue Party – one of Ethiopia’s main opposition parties – was found guilty of encouraging “terrorism”, by the country’s federal high court and was sentenced to six and a half years.
He was arrested in December 2015 after accusing the government of using disproportionate force against demonstrators in Facebook posts and was sentenced to six and a half years in prison. “The defendant has acted in way that threatened the country’s political, economic and social fabric,” read the charge sheet.
However, his lawyer Shibiru Belete has appealed for the charges of terrorism to be downgraded to criminal charges. Accordingly, the Supreme Court has decided that the terrorism charges against Yonatan’s will be downgraded to criminal charges and reduced his sentence to three years and a half.
Ethiopian government uses the so called anti-terrorism proclamation (ATP) not to fight the real threat from terrorists in the likes of Somali based Al-Shabaab but to silence any political dissent in the country and throwing activists to jail for social-media postings deemed by the authorities as anti government posting.
“The Ethiopian government is using laws and judicial processes that fail to meet international human rights standards to harass and stifle dissent, targeting activists, human rights defenders, opposition party leaders and journalists, ” said Haben Fecadu, Campaigner at Amnesty International.
Despite repeated calls from civil society organisations, independent UN experts, the European Parliament, and numerous governments, including the United States, the Ethiopian authorities continue to arbitrarily detain and prosecute scores of peaceful protestors for exercising their rights, using the broad provisions of the ATP to criminalise peaceful expressions of dissent. Since the enactment of the ATP in 2009, human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and peaceful protestors have been prosecuted and convicted under its provisions.