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Longstanding Case against Ethiopian Scientific Colleagues Is Dropped
February 27, 2018

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Ethiopian colleagues pictured here with fellow Zone 9 blogger and mechanical engineer Abel Wabella (left), who was earlier acquitted on terrorism-related charges.

After nearly four years and dozens of trial hearings, the Ethiopian Federal Attorney General, on February 14, 2018, informed computer scientist Befeqadu Hailu and economist Natnael Feleke that spurious charges of incitement to violence, related to their peaceful expressions of dissent, had been dropped. An identical charge, brought against computer scientist Atnaf Berahane, was also withdrawn on February 27.

The men were among a group of nine individuals arrested in April 2014 as a result of articles that they had written as part of the independent blog collective known as Zone 9, a platform for opinion pieces on political repression, corruption and social injustice in Ethiopia. After one and a half years in detention, they, along with mechanical engineer Abel Wabella, were acquitted of terrorism-related charges. Nevertheless, Befeqadu Hailu, Natnael Feleke and Atnaf Berahane continued to face a charge of incitement to violence in connection with their peaceful writings. According to reliable reports, the proceedings in the case were plagued by numerous unexplained adjournments, delayed access to legal counsel, and other procedural irregularities.