24 Ethiopians found guilty of terrorism

Twenty four Ethiopians could be sentenced to death after a federal court found them guilty of terrorism.  

Prosecutors are pushing for life imprisonment sentences, but it is feared that the judges could pass the capital punishment.

Only eight of those charged appeared before the courts while the rest were convicted in absentia. A journalist and a politician are amongst those facing the death penalty after being convicted.

The 24 were arrested last year after the government accused them of having links with banned opposition groups, which are suspected of being engaged in terrorism and are linked to global terror outfit, Al Qaeda.

Ethiopia enacted an anti-terrorism law last year but human rights lobbyists fear this is an instrument to suppress opposition political parties.

Opposition political parties have also strongly criticised the law, arguing that the government was violating freedom of speech and the media.

But the Horn of Africa country has defended the law saying it is not intended to silence the opposition or press freedom.

Judge Endeshaw Adane told the hearing that freedom of speech can be limited in cases where it undermines national security and interest.

Five of the defendants, including a journalist and an opposition politician, will reappear in court on July 13 to present their mitigating circumstances.

Already two Swedish journalists and a number of Ethiopians are serving 10 or more years in prison under the terrorism law. Ethiopia is among the few African nations to have a terrorism law.

A Kenyan is also in jail on terrorism related charges after he was accused him of having links with Al Shabab. Prosecutors allege that he entered Ethiopia to engage in acts of terror. Read more: Terrorism charges

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