November 18, 2010

Minister of Justice
Berhanu Hailu
Ministry of Justice
P.O. Box 1370
Addis Ababa
Fax: +251 11 551 7775/ 7755

Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Seyoum Mesfin
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
P.O. Box 393
Addis Ababa
Fax: +251 11 551 43 00

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern regarding the detention of 17-year-old Akram Ezedin.

According to our information, Akram Ezedin, acting editor of the privately-owned Islamic weekly newspaper Al-Quds, was arrested on September 11, 2010, after his father, Ezedin Mohamed, was released from prison. Ezedin Mohamed served a one-year sentence for a 2008 column criticizing statements made by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi during an interview with British newspaper The Guardian. Since his father’s arrest in January 2010, Akram Ezedin has taken over running the Addis Ababa-based Al-Quds. Akram Ezedin was reportedly arrested for articles published by Al-Quds in July that were critical of the performance of the Islamic Council (Mejilis) of the Afar region. He has reportedly appeared in court four times since he was detained but still has not been charged. He is currently being held in a prison in Asaita, the regional capital of Afar.

PEN American Center strongly protests the detention without charge of Akram Ezedin immediately after his father’s release, and would like to remind authorities that pre-trial detention is considered illegal under Ethiopia’s Mass Media and Freedom of Information Proclamation. We believe Akram Ezedin is being detained in violation of his right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, to which Ethiopia is a signatory, and we therefore call for his immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this critical matter.

Hannah Pakula                   
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee             
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Mr. Tesfaye Yilma
Chargé d’Affaires
Embassy of Ethiopia to the United States
3506 International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 587-0195

>> Back to Rapid Action