Demand the Immediate Release of Eskinder Nega

Journalist Eskinder Nega, winner of the 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, is serving an 18-year sentence on terror charges for his critical commentary in Ethiopia.

Acting Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn P.O. Box 1031 Addis Ababa Ethiopia Minister of Justice Berhanu Hailu Ministry of Justice P.O. Box 1370 Addis Ababa Ethiopia

Free Eskinder Nega

Your Excellencies, I am writing to protest the 18-year sentence handed to journalist, blogger, and 2012 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award winner Eskinder Nega on terrorism charges. I understand that Eskinder Nega, who had previously been imprisoned at least six times under Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for his work as a journalist, was arrested on September 14, 2011, after he published a column questioning the government's claim that a number of journalists it had detained were suspected terrorists, and for criticizing the arrest of well-known Ethiopian actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu on terror charges earlier that week. Eskinder was accused of affiliation with banned political party Ginbot 7, and state television portrayed him and other political prisoners as "spies for foreign forces." Eskinder was among 24 defendants named on an indictment delivered on November 10, 2011, and that he stands accused of receiving weapons and explosives from neighboring Eritrea in order to carry out terrorist acts in Ethiopia. Eskinder's trial for charges under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, which criminalizes any reporting deemed to "encourage" or "provide moral support" to groups and causes which the government considers to be "terrorist," began on March 6, 2012. On March 28, Eskinder took the stand and denied all charges against him, saying that he has never conspired to overthrow the government through violence and admitting only to reporting on the Arab Spring and speculating on whether a similar movement would take place in Ethiopia. After several delays, Eskinder Nega was found guilty of the charges against him on June 27, 2012. On July 13, the Federal High Court sentenced him to 18 years in prison, and on May 2, 2013, the Ethiopian Federal Supreme Court upheld both the conviction and sentence. He is currently being held at Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa, where political prisoners are housed with criminals. I believe Eskinder Nega has been convicted in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 or the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which Ethiopia is a signatory. I therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release, as well as the release of all other journalists currently detained for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Thank you for your prompt attention to this critical matter.  

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