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Court Sentence Yonatan Tesfaye to 6.5 Years over Facebook Posts


Former opposition spokesperson Yonatan Tesfaye sentenced over Facebook posts criticizing the government’s response to protests.

An Ethiopian court sentenced opposition politician Yonatan Tesfaye to six and a half years in prison on Thursday (May 25), the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporation (Fana) reported.

Yonatan Tesfaye, a former spokesperson for the Blue (Semayawi) Party – one of the East African country’s main opposition parties – was found guilty earlier this month of encouraging “terrorism”.

He was arrested in December 2015 after accusing the government of using disproportionate force against demonstrators in Facebook posts.

“We’ll appeal,” Blue Party Chairman Yeshiwas Assefa told AFP news agency.

“This is freedom of expression.”

Yonatan’s detention came shortly after the start of anti-government protests by the country’s largest ethnic group, the Oromos, which caused the government to impose a nationwide state of emergency last October.

“The defendant has acted in way that threatened the country’s political, economic and social fabric,” read the charge sheet, as reported by Fana.

In a letter released on Wednesday, 13 rights groups called on the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) to urge Ethiopia during its June meeting to allow an independent investigation into “atrocities committed by security forces to suppress peaceful protests and independent dissent”.

A crackdown on protests resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests.

The letter echoes complaints by the UNHCR’s High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who said he was not allowed access to where the protests occurred during a visit to Ethiopia this month.