The Ethiopian Federal High Court [official website, in Amharic] convicted 24 journalists, political opposition leaders and others under the country's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009 [text], Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported [press release] on Wednesday. The human rights group urged the country to drop all politically motivated charges against the convicted. Eskinder Nega, April's winner [press release] of the press freedom award from PEN America [advocacy website], was found guilty for his alleged link with US-based opposition group Ginbot Seven [advocacy website, in Amharic] which is considered a terrorist group in Ethiopia. He could face a sentence of 15 years in prison or death. The sentences will be announced on July 13. Claire Beston, Ethiopia researcher for Amnesty International [advocacy website], addressed Wednesday's conviction by stating that "[t]his is a dark day for justice in Ethiopia, where freedom of expression is being systematically destroyed by a government targeting any dissenting voice." The other five journalists were convicted in absentia. Politicians are among the convicted, including Andualem Arage Wale and Nathnael Mekonnen Gebre Kidan, members of Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) [party website, in Amharic] as well as Kinfemichael Debebe Bereded, a member of the All Ethiopian Democratic Party (AEDP) [Facebook page] who were found guilty of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, participation in a terrorist organization and treason.
Ethiopia has faced consistent criticism since it passed [JURIST report] the anti-terrorism law in 2009. In January, the Ethiopian court convicted [JURIST report] three journalists, a political opposition leader and a politician's assistant for conspiring to commit acts of terrorism in violation of the controversial law. Human rights groups such as HRW have criticized the conviction and called the government to drop all charges. In December HRW stated [JURIST report] that the controversial law is "fundamentally flawed and being used to repress legitimate reporting." The statement came after two Swedish journalists were convicted [Bloomberg report] of supporting terrorism.