Eskinder Nega, Andualem Arage lose appeal on terror conviction

(Daniel Berhane)

Federal Supreme Court dismissed appeal of opposition figures Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage.

The two opposition activists, along others, were detained in the second half of 2011, charged with plotting an Egyptian-style revolution and related acts of violence in coordination with the pro-Eritrean group, Ginbot 7, OLF and ONLF which are designated terrorist under Ethiopian laws.

The Federal High Court found them guilty of crimes of terrorism, high treason and espionage in mid-2012 and sentenced Eskinder Nega and Andualem Arage with 18 years and life imprisonments, respectively.

Eskinder and Andualem filed appeal at the Federal Supreme Court where the case was dragged for months, which is rumored to be interference by western officials.

It is to be recalled that British Dep. Prime Minister Nick Clegg claimed to journalists that he demanded Prime Minister Hailemariam to interfere in favor of Eskinder Nega, though the case was still pending court. Ethiopian officials strongly deny Nick Clegg’s story, claiming that he barely mentioned human rights issues in general terms and never went into specifics.

Though the Federal Supreme Court dropped one of the charges on Eskinder Nega, it didn’t entail reduction of the sentencing.

The convicts can still appeal to the Cassation chamber of the Federal Supreme Court on ground of “error of law”.

Gnbot-7 is a violent group founded in United States by Berhanu Nega (PhD). In 2009, Berhanu Nega masterminded a foiled plot to assassinate government officials, consequently he was sentenced to death in absentia, while Ginbot 7 was proscribed as a terrorist organization.

Berhanu Nega officially works with the Eritrean Government and another home-grown terrorist group, OLF – the latter two were implicated in the UN report’s account of the plot to bomb AU Summit.

Andualem Arage, alongside Berhanu Nega, had been one of the leaders of an opposition political party that called for a street violence in Nov. 2005, when more than 190 people, including police officers, died.

The two, together with dozens of their colleagues, were subsequently charged and convicted in an Ethiopian Court. However, they were released in June 2007 when the President of the Republic accepted their petition for pardon, in which they took responsibility for the loss of life and property.

Following that, Berhanu Nega left to the US to form Ginbot 7 and officially declared that it will use any means and cooperate with anyone to bring regime-change in Ethiopia. Andualem Arage remained in the country and became vice chairman of the opposition party Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) and executive committee member of a major opposition coalition, Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Party, aka Medrek.

Eskinder Nega, likewise, had been arrested in connection with the 2005 post-election violence. The court found guilty his publishing house, Serkalem publishing, by which he published three newspapers simultaneously in the run to election 2005.

He had doubled as vice Chairman of the All Amahara Peoples’ Organization (AAPO) until 2004/2005. The AAPO led by Eskinder was a hardliner splinter group that remained behind when the majority of AAPO members, led by Eng. Hailu Shawel, decided to rename the party All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP).

As a result of the conviction, Eskinder’s application for a new publishing license was denied by the federal Broadcasting Authority in 2007. Because, Ethiopian officials claim, his request for a new license was nothing but an attempt to circumvent the Court’s ruling by re-registering the old publishing house in a new name bypassing the fine and liquidation.

However, Eskider maintained media presence by writing opinion pieces to Ethiopian papers and websites published at home and abroad.

The three newspapers that Eskinder Nega published until 2005 – Askual, Menelik and Satenaw – were characterized by yellow journalism and serious ethical flaws including Holocaust glorification.

Western media and activists, however, choose to overlook these facts and paint a saintly image of the man and his defunct papers for unclear reasons.

It is not clear yet how Eskinder came to be called “blogger”.

Check the Eskinder Nega archive for related posts.


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