By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil
Addis Abeba, December 05/2020 – November 23, 2020 was the second court appearance for the four journalists including Medhanie Ekubamichael, product editor at Addis standard, and three journalists from Ethiopian press agency (EPA): Haphtom Gebre Egizabeher and Tsegaye Hagos, editors at the state owned Ethiopian herald newspaper published by EPA, and Abraha Hagos reporter at AL-Alem the Arabic version of Ethiopian press agency (EPA).
All the four journalists are ethnic Tigrayans and were detained in the wake of the ongoing military conflict in Tigray region which started on November 04.
Initially, the police were given additional eight days to investigate them and six other individuals whose case was presented in the same file but who do not know each other. On December 1, 2020 the judges at the Federal First Instance Court have granted a bail amount of 10,000 ETB each for the four journalists who had been in custody for over three weeks because the police did not produce evidence nor did it press charges. When the family of detainees paid the bail and requested the federal police to release them, they were all told that the police had appealed against the decision. The following day, a new hearing was commenced, this time at Lideta High Court.
At the hearing on Thursday December 02, the police have requested the court to repeal the bail the detainees were granted explaining that they needed yet another 14 days to investigate and trace potential collaborators. Lawyer Wubshet Kassew, who is representing Medihane, argued that the federal first instance court ruled allowing the journalists to be released due to the sheer reason that the police had failed to complete their investigations present to the court in the given time. Wubshet also said that his client should not suffer while the police await investigation results from government security institutions which was the reason the police had previously asked for additional days.
“The federal first instance court granted bail and ordered the release of these journalists because their residential address known. Their cases can be followed up without holding them in detention,” Wubshet said. According to him, the police accused Medihane on two criminal charges of “attempts to dismantle the constitution and the constitutional order through violence and outrage against the constitution.”
However, after hearing both sides the judges granted the police 13 more days and adjourned the next hearing until December 14.
Medhanie Ekubamichael, had tested positive to the coronavirus. Another detainee whose case was presented in the same file did not attend yesterday’s court hearing because he was in isolation for showing symptoms of the virus. The police did not present the association of the ten detainees who were detained at different times, and never met each other before, but were put in one file.
The RSF has condemned such violation of rights and travesty of justice in Ethiopia. Arnaud Froger, the head of RSF’s Africa desk said that the leadership prevents journalists from working, detains some journalists and exposes them to the Covid-19 epidemic. The RSF has called for the release of all journalists detained in Ethiopia. AS