Amnesty International Calls for Immediate Release of Ethiopian Prisoners of Conscience

Press Release
January 19, 2012

Amnesty International Calls for Immediate Release of Ethiopian Prisoners of Conscience

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150

(New York) --Three journalists, one opposition politician and one other individual, all found guilty of terrorism offenses by an Ethiopian court today, were convicted on the basis of their legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and must be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International said today.

"Amnesty International believes there is no evidence that the three men and two women were guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. We believe that the five are prisoners of conscience, prosecuted because of their legitimate work and peaceful activities," said Claire Beston, Amnesty International's Ethiopia researcher.

"A significant amount of the prosecution's evidence focused on the defendants' reporting of, and alleged involvement in, calls for peaceful protest against the government, said Beston. "Other evidence included articles written by defendants and even articles sent to defendants by other people. This illustrates that free expression has been criminalized in this trial and that criticizing the government is considered a crime."

"These convictions are another sign that individuals who hold different opinions, represent different political parties or attempt to provide independent commentary on political developments, are no longer tolerated in Ethiopia," added Beston.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.
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