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  • Ethiopia Court Found Former Senior Opposition Figure Yonatan Tesfaye Guilty of Terrorism Charges

    The Federal High court fourth criminal bench has today passed a guilty verdict against Yonatan Tesfaye, former opposition Blue Party public relations head.

    Yonatan was first arrested in December 2015, barely a month after the first wave of a year-long #Oromoprotests erupted.  He was held incommunicado during the pre-trial weeks and was subsequently charged in May 2016 under Ethiopia’s infamous anti-terrorism proclamation (ATP).

    Yonatan has been defending the charges against him since then. The charges of ‘encouragement of terrorism’, stipulated under article six of the ATP, were largely drawn from his Facebook activism during the protests. According to article six of the ATP, “Whosoever publishes or causes the publication of a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducements to them to the commission or preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism…” is subject to terrorism charges.

    He had presented several defense witnesses, including prominent opposition party leaders from the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Bekele Gerba and Dr. Merera Gudina, who are in jail at the time of their testimony fighting charges of terrorism and multiple criminal charges respectively, and journalist Eskendir Nega, who is serving 18 years in prison for terrorism-related charges.

    In addition, Yonatan’s close friend Ephrem Tayachew, his father Tesfaye Regassa, and his sister Gedamnesh Tesfaye as well as academicians from the Addis Abeba University (AAU), including the outspoken philosopher Dr. Dagnachew Assefa and Dr. Yaqob Hailemariam have all appeared in court to testify in defense of Yonatan’s innocence.

    However, this morning the court in its verdict overruled all defense testimonials by upholding prosecutors’ accusations. Yonatan’s sentencing is adjourned to May 25.

    Yonatan could face from ten to 20 years rigorous prison term in a federal prison; however, the court ruled that he can appeal for a minimum sentence.

     

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  • Ethiopia to spend $1.8 million in 2017 for lobbying

    Ethiopia has hired SGR LLC Government Relations and Lobbying firm to lobby on behalf of the Ethiopian government to U.S. policy makers, congress, the media and business leaders.

    According to the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) database seen by nazret.com, Ethiopian government will pay $150,000 per month for the said service. The agreement was signed last month by Ethiopian Ambassador to the U.S., Girma Biru (Signed as Girma Geda) and Greg Lowman, a partner at the lobbying firm. Scroll down to see the document below.

    The agreement signed says “SGR will work with the client to develop and execute a public affairs plan to enhance the dialogue and relationships with policymakers, media, opinion leaders and business leaders”. It is not clear if this includes paying for ‘opinion leaders’ to write favorable commentaries in major newspapers in the United States.

    Ethiopia is not new to lobbying the U.S. government, according to Newsweek, it wrote in 2010 that Ethiopia’s lobbying had helped to defuse charges that the government has turned increasingly authoritarian. 

    Read more here

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  • 100 USA Visas per Year for Ethiopia. Donald Trump Signs Executive Order

    The President of the United States, Donald Trump, has signed an executive order placing a quota on the number of visas to be issued by the United States Embassy in Addis Ababa to Ethiopians.

    The executive order, which bans seven countries from visiting the United States granted Ethiopia only 100 visas per year. This means that the embassy is entitled to issue visas to only 100 lucky applicants yearly until may be a new government takes over to make changes to such laws.

    Also, Ethiopians who hold dual nationality will be banned from entering the United States if their other passport is from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen — the seven Muslim-majority countries “of concern”.
    A lot of attention has been on the temporary visa ban on citizens of the seven Muslim-majority countries, but the impact on Ethiopians is far more than previously thought.

    United States visas to the lucky 100 people would be valid for only three months as a clause in the order requires reciprocity.

    Section 9 of the Executive Order states: “The Secretary of State shall review all nonimmigrant visa reciprocity agreements to ensure that they are, with respect to each visa classification, truly reciprocal insofar as practicable with respect to validity period and fees, as required by sections 221(c) and 281 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1201(c) and 1351, and other treatment. If a country does not treat United States nationals seeking nonimmigrant visas in a reciprocal manner, the Secretary of State shall adjust the visa validity period, fee schedule, or other treatment to match the treatment of United States nationals by the foreign country, to the extent practicable…”

    Given that the Trump order takes immediate effect, Ethiopians holding valid long term US visa are most likely to be affected.

     Source: USA Television

     

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  • “Ethiopia doesn’t detain journalists,” Negeri Lencho

    These days Negeri Lencho, Ethiopia Minister of the Government Communication Affairs Office, is making the rounds at various media houses: BBC, Deutsche Welle, VOA, foreign-based ruling party friendly media, EBC are just to mention but a few. 

    As the new kid on the block in the cabinet of PM Hailemariam Desalegn, Dr Negeri is creating an impression that he is open to all who seek his attention. In comparison to his combatant predecessor, Negeri is plain and soft spoken, devoid of party lingo, and above all professor of journalism at Addis Ababa University. What better preparation for the post!

    However, the one thing he lacks most is the information itself. He could barely come up with a conclusive answer about his former colleague at the AAU when he was arrested shortly after a trip to Brussels. Lawyers and activists fared far better, concerning Dr Merera Gudina’s arrest, than the central figure entrusted with communicating state information. At the VOA interview, he even dared to say the “government was protecting Dr. Merera.” It’s anybody’s knowledge who sought protection from whom.

    After hours of interviews given to the aforementioned media, there is hardly a revelation or some kind of breakthrough that is worth mentioning. Instead his understanding of the incarceration of journalists is clearly a cause for concern, if not outrage.

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  • Ethiopia accepts S. Sudan’s request to close rebel offices

    The Ethiopian government has accepted a request by South Sudan government to shut down all offices belonging to its armed opposition faction (SPLM-IO) loyal to ex-first vice president-turned rebel leader, Riek Machar in Addis Ababa.

    “Our relations with the countries in the region are increasingly improving to the better. The visit of the first vice president, General Taban Deng Gai, has made a significant improvement in the relations with our neigbouring countries. Now Ethiopia has accepted in principle to close down all the offices run by individuals are still loyal to Riek Machar,” a presidential source knowledgeable of events said Saturday.

    “They have also agreed to not allow these elements to not carry out their activities in Addis Ababa,” added the source.

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  • Ethiopian Opposition Leader Arrested for trespassing state of emergency rulings

    Awramba Times (Addis Ababa) –Ethiopian security agents have arrested Merera Gudina  (PhD), chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress today.  Merera was arrested at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport while returning back to his home country from abroad.

    Reliable sources disclosed to Awramba Times that the cause for Merera Gudina’s arrest is trespassing the state of emergency rulings.

    During his recent appearance at the European Union parliament, along with Dr. Berhanu Nega and athlete Feyissa Lelissa, Merera Gudina has requested the European union to put pressure on the government of Ethiopia.

    source: http://www.awrambatimes.com/?p=15722

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  • Ethiopia’s internet crackdown hurts everyone

    The government has targeted the mobile data connections that the majority of Ethiopians use to get online. Internet users have also been unable to access Facebook Messenger and Twitter, with a host of other services also rendered unreliable. 

    This has impacted everyone: from local businesses, to foreign embassies, to families, as well as the extensive and vital international aid community.

    “Non-governmental organisations play crucial roles in developing countries, often with country offices in the capitals, satellite offices across remote regions, and parent organisations in foreign countries,” said Moses Karanja, an internet policy researcher at Strathmore University in Nairobi.  “They need access to the internet if their operations are to be efficiently coordinated.”

    The Ethiopian government has been candid about the restrictions being in response to year-long anti-government protests in which hundreds of people have died.

    It has singled out social media as a key factor in driving unrest. Since the beginning of October, there has been a spike in violence resulting in millions of dollars’ worth of damage to foreign-owned factories, government buildings and tourist lodges across Oromia Region, initially ground zero for the dissent.

    “Mobile data will be permitted once the government assesses that it won’t threaten the implementation of the state of emergency,” government spokesman Getachew Reda – who has since been replaced – told a 26 October press conference in Addis Ababa.

    The Oromo are the country’s largest ethnic group, constituting 35 percent of the country’s nearly 100 million population. They have historically felt ignored by successive regimes in Addis Ababa. In August, similar grassroots protest broke out among the Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group. The ruling EPRDF is portrayed by opponents as a narrow, unrepresentative clique that refuses to share power.

    Ethiopia is not alone in its approach to political unrest. Around the world, as countries become increasingly integrated with online technology, the more autocratic governments are blocking the internet whenever they deem it necessary.

    “The trend appears to be growing because more people are going online and using the internet, often through the use of mobile connections,” said Deji Olukotun of Access Now, which campaigns for digital rights. In 2016, it documented 50 shutdowns, up from less than 20 in 2015.

    “People are enjoying the freedom and opportunity that the internet provides, which enables them to organise themselves and advocate for what they want,” Olukotun told IRIN. “In response, governments are shutting down the net to stop this practice.”

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