Update–1 | Ethiopia detains online activists

Ethiopian government has detained several opposition activists and bloggers, according to sources close the detainees.

The list of detainees reportedly includes a group of opposition bloggers who collectively blog under the name Zone Nine and another freelancer journalist – all Ethiopian citizens.

According to the information available so far, bloggers and social media activists Atnaf Berahane, Befeqadu Hailu, Mahlet Fantahun. Natnael Feleke and Abel Wabela and Zelalem Kiberet are among the detainees. In addition,detained Tesfalem Weldeyest a freelancer journalist who writes to Addis Standard magazine and Addis Fortune newspaper.

It was learnt that the police provided court warrants to the bosses of at least two of the detainees: That is: To the managers of the Construction and Business bank in the case of Natnael Feleke and to the vice President of Ambo University in the case of Zelalem Kiberet.

However, it was not possible to know the contents of the warrants at the time of this writing.

It is virtually impossible to acquire further information at this time of the night and government officials have been unresponsive to SMS queries.

The detention caught many by surprise as the Zone Nine bloggers have been less active in the past months, except for their activity on twitter. Similarly, Tesfalem Weldeyes have been mostly covering developmental projects, though he used twitter to air his opinion.

The government of Ethiopia is often criticized of over-reacting, by observers. A case in point is Reeyot Alemu whose case should have been treated leniently.

One hopes this bizarre incident will be sorted at the earliest possible opportunity.


Update 1
(April 26: – 7:30pm):

A press release by Amnesty International indicated that:

  • The six bloggers and freelancer journalist Tesfalem Woldeyes were detained at about the same time in Friday afternoon after being taken to their homes, which were searched.
  • Another freelance journalist, Edom Kasaye, was arrested on the morning of Saturday 26 April.

All are believed to be in the Federal Police Crime Investigation Department (a.k.a. ‘Ma’ekelawi’), according to their friends. Though, external contact was not allowed except for deliver food and other stuff with the officers.

Friends of the detained indicated that: “during the arrest their house was searched and police took laptops, Newspapers and books from their home”.

Authorities declined to comment on the matter.

The blog NewBusiness Ethiopia described the detention of Tesfalem Woldeyes as follows:

Tesfalem Weldeyes, freelancer for the weekly English newspaper, Addis Fortune, and Addis Standard magazine was escorted from his house around known as ‘Gotera condominium’ by the police, according to his neighbor with whom he left his house key.

“Late this evening I got a massive knock at my door. I opened and the guy by the door screamed at me “Tesfalem is calling for you outside”. I thought maybe he got into accident and run out to his place. He was surrounded by about seven people dressed civil and two policemen. They are carrying some clothes in a plastic bag and papers in another. ‘You have a spare key to his house. If anything is taken from his place you will be accountable,’ one of them screamed at me,” his neighbor wrote on her facebook wall late last night.

The profile of some of the detainees was reported as:

Befekadu Hailu Expert at St. Mary’s University College, Natnail Feleke, HR management officer at Construction and Business Bank; Mahlet Fantahun, Data Officer, Atnaf Berhane IT Services professional, Zelalem Kibret, Lecturer at Ambo University and Abel Wabella, a Tooling Engineer at Ethiopian Airlines.


Daniel Berhane

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