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Yonatan Tesfaye was sentenced to more than six years for encouraging “terrorism” by the comments he made on Facebook / Photo: AI

Ethiopian sentenced to 6 years imprisonment for Facebook posts

A federal high court in Ethiopia on Thursday sentenced Yonatan Tesfaye to six years and six months in prison for comments he made on Facebook.

The court convicted the politician for “planning, preparing and encouraging terrorism” via his Facebook page in 2015. 

The authorities objected to several posts including one in which he said the government used “force against the people instead of peaceful discussion”.

The former spokesperson for the Blue party had been found guilty of the charges earlier this month after his arrest in December 2015 for encouraging the Oromo protests that resulted in the death of thousands of people.

Amnesty International described the gulity verdict as “a miscarriage of justice”.

The sentencing on Thursday follows an appeal by his lawyer Shibiru Belete Birru for a minimum sentence as the charges carried up to 20 years prison sentence, local media Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

After his arrest, Tesfaye was held incommunicado during the pre-trial period until May 2016 when he was charged with terrorism under the country’s anti-terrorism law.

He has maintained his innocence throughout the trial based on the 2009 law that prescribes jail terms for anyone who publishes information that could incite readers to commit acts of terrorism.

Yonatan Tesfaye’s sentencing follows the conviction of journalist Getachew Shiferaw who was also arrested in late December 2015 and charged in May 2016 with involvement in the operations of the outlawed anti-government group Ginbot 7.

That charge was dismissed but he was found guilty on Wednesday of public provocation to commit “crimes against the external security and defensive power” of the state.

Ethiopia has been accused by opposition politicians and international rights groups of regularly using security concerns as an excuse to stifle anti-government statements and clamp down on media freedoms.

Austin Ohaegbu

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