Ethiopia: Fresh trial for two Zone-9 bloggers flies in the face of justice

The Ethiopian Supreme Court’s ruling today that two members of the Zone-9 bloggers’ collective who were facing terrorism charges under the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) should face a new trial for offences against the Constitution, partly for learning how to encrypt their messages, flies in the face of fair trial and justice, said Amnesty International today.

The court ruled that, although the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence to support terrorism charges against Nathnael Feleke and Atnaf Birhane, it had presented enough to support charges of “provocation and preparation to commit or support outrages against the Constitution or the Constitutional Order.”

“Learning how to encrypt messages is not a crime, but a freedom protected under the right to privacy and freedom of expression,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

“The court’s reasoning that the bloggers confession as to having taken training on ‘security-in-a-box,’ as well as on campaigning, monitoring demonstrations and leadership, demonstrates their malicious intention against the government is not only ridiculous, but also inconsistent with their human rights as guaranteed under the Ethiopian Constitution, as well as regional and international standards.”

Security-in-a-Box is a guide to digital security widely used by activists and human rights defenders.

Amnesty International calls on the Ethiopian authorities to immediately drop the charges against Nathnael Feleke and Atnaf Birhane.