Managing editor of Awramba Times, an Amharic-language weekly, Dawit Kebede, announced from Washington D.C. his decision to seek political asylum abroad claiming to have received ‘a tip last week about alleged government plans to re-imprison him’, according to news by Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) on Monday.
Dawit Kebede said the tip-off followed an October 19 editorial in the state-owned Amharic-language daily Addis Zemen, which accused him of links with "terrorist groups," called on the government to revoke his pardon, and urged security forces to "to take action" against him, according to CPJ.
Earlier this year, Dawit Kebede brought an unsuccessful legal action against Addis Zemen for defamation. Dawit Kebede believes the state-media singled him and his paper for attack.
Dawit Kebede told CPJ that official sources warned him on Thursday of ‘preparations by the Ministry of Justice and Government Communication Affairs [Office] to revoke the conditional pardon’.
Previously, Dawit Kebede was charged alongside members of an opposition political party that called for a street violence in Nov. 2005 that left more than 150 persons, including police officers, dead. After pleading guilty for "inciting and conspiring to commit outrages to the constitutional order", he was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
However, he was released, after 19 months imprisonment, on June 2007 when the President of the Republic accepted his petition for pardon – which is granted on condition that he ‘observes and ensures the observance of the Constitutional order’. In case, Dawit is deemed to have violated the conditions of the pardon, the Pardon board, with the approval of the President, can revoke the pardon and order the resumption of the imprisonment.
Government officials dismissed the claims of harassment and denied any plan to prosecute Dawit Kebede. Yahoo-news reported that:
Ethiopian government spokesman Shimeles Kemal rejected claims that authorities had threatened to revoke his pardon or close down the newspaper.
"This is an absolute lie, an absolute lie. They have never been subjected to any form of government harassment," Shimeles said.
He said the newspaper was likely to shut down because of dwindling readership, and denied that his government might have a role in it.
"This is a fig leaf of an excuse under the guise of political harassment," he said.
The news from CPJ indicated, quoting Dawit Kebede, that the newspaper is unlikely to continue publishing.
It is to be recalled that another Editor of Awramba Times, Wubshet Taye, is in detention since last June. Government officials claim that Wubeshet’s detention is not related to their journalistic conducts. The case is still pending in court.