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Ethiopia: Court rejects Journalist’s appeal over ties with rebels

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January 9, 2013(ADDIS ABABA) - An Ethiopian court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by a journalist who remains imprisoned on charges of terrorism.

Reeyot Alemu was a high school English teacher and a regular contributor to the weekly Feteh, one of the few remaining independent papers in Ethiopia.

She was arrested on June 21, 2011, and convicted on January 19, 2012, on three counts for alleged links with banned rebel groups and for promoting their activities.

In August, an appeals court acquitted the journalist of a first two charges and reduced her sentence from 14 to 5 years, but it uphold the third one which still was related with terrorism.

Court on Tuesday However, rejected the latest appeal attempted to clear all cases filed against her.

Few days earlier to her arrest, Woubshet Taye, who was the deputy editor of the independent newspaper Awramba Times, was also similarly arrested now facing prison terms on terrorism charged.

Both Reyot and Taye were found to have links with designated terrorist entity known as Ginbot 7.

Last month Human Rights Watch (HRW) announced four Ethiopian journalists including Reyot and Taye to have been awarded for 2012 prestigious Hellman/Hammett Award in recognition to what it said was for their efforts to promote free expression in Ethiopia.

The two others were Eskinder Nega Fenta, an independent journalist and blogger and Mesfin Negash of Addis Neger Online.

According to HRW, the four Ethiopian journalists were among 41 writers and journalists from 19 countries who received the award of the year.

After Ethiopia endorsed a controversial terrorism law in 2009, International press right groups widely criticized it as being vaguely worded and broadly defined that carries sentences of up to 20 years in prison.

The law criminalizes any reporting considered to "encourage" or "provide moral support" to terrorist designated rebel groups such as Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Gimbot 7 and Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

Right groups accuse the horn of Africa’s nation of using the anti-terrorism law as a tool to silence critical journalists and to punish dissidents.

Eleven Ethiopians including two Swedish journalists have been charged and sentenced under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation in 2012.

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