Féteh Newspaper Columnist behind bars, CPJ alleges

A columnist of the weekly Amharic, Féteh, is behind bar as of Tuesday, CPJ claimed in its press release today.

Réyot Alemu, who also doubles as an English language teacher, was picked up at a high school where she teaches English. Police has searched Réyot’s house and detained her incommunicado in the Federal Police Crime Investigation Office, aka Maekelawi, in central Addis Ababa, according to CPJ sourcing unnamed local journalists.

CPJ claimed that ‘she has been transferred into preventive detention for a period of 28 days, pending further investigations’ citing a local lawyer who wished not to be named.

Photo - Reeyot Alemu
Photo – Reeyot Alemu

If the account is accurate, then it can be safely assumed that Réyot Alemu is to be charged under the 2009 Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, since in all other cases Ethiopian Courts could only provide a 14 days remand in each appearance – though there is no limit on the total time a suspect may remain in detention. Whereas the Anti-Terrorism proclamation stipulates ‘each period given to remand the suspect for investigation shall be a minimum of 28 days; provided however, that the total time shall not exceed a period of four months.’

The Press release noted that it couldn’t obtain confirmation from official sources as government spokesman Bereket Simon told CPJ on Friday that he was not immediately available to comment.’

Yet, CPJ suspected the arrest could be related to her columns which it said are ‘critical of the ruling party, EPRDF,’ thus, called for her immediate release.

Other sources indicated that Réyot had been member of the Council of one of the major parties Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJP, aka Andinet) until last year when she left joined the breakaway faction that was headed by Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam.

[This news will be updated when government sources respond on the matter.]


Update: Bloomberg’s reported on Jun 29, 2011, 8:16 PM GMT (that is 11:16 PM local time)

Ethiopian officials arrested nine people, including two journalists, on charges of terrorism, said Shimeles Kemal, state minister for communications.

They are accused of “organizing a terrorist structure to destroy, demolish and sabotage essential power and telecommunications infrastructure,” he said by phone today from Addis Ababa, the capital. The arrests took place last week. They have “nothing to do with viewpoints they have published,” said Shimeles.

The arrests “should be viewed as a strong measure by the government to protect freedom of speech,” since they are connected to alleged plots to destroy telecommunications infrastructure, he said. Two members of the opposition Ethiopian National Democratic Party were among those detained, Shimeles said.


Daniel Berhane

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