Ethiopia: Four more heavy sentences

***UPDATE: PEN warmly welcomes the news that four Ethiopian journalists, Wosonseged Gebrekidan,  Dawit Kebede, Goshu Moges and Tadios Tantu, were released on 18 August, following a pardon from the Prime Minister. Nonetheless, we continue to urge the Ethiopian government to pardon the editors Zelalem Guebre and Abey Gizaw, who were sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia on 16 July.  ***

English PEN deplores the hefty custodial sentences of between 4 and 15 years imposed on four Ethiopian journalists in late July. PEN is calling for the convictions to be quashed and for the journalists’ immediate and unconditional release.  It also urges the Ethiopian government not to revive genocide charges, which carry the death penalty, against nine other journalists who were acquitted in April.

On 30 July, Wosonseged Gebrekidan (Addis Zena) and Dawit Kebede (Hadar), who have been imprisoned since November 2005 on charges related to their publication of editorials critical of the government’s conduct around the May 2005 parliamentary elections, were both sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment for ‘conspiracy to subvert the government’. Three days earlier, on 27 July, Goshu Moges (Lisane Hezeb) and freelance columnist, Tadios Tantu, jailed since February 2006 on similar charges, were given 10 and 15 year sentences respectively for ‘belonging to an illegal political organisation’. 

Hopes of Pardon

There are hopes that all four journalists will receive a presidential pardon; it has been reported that they waived their defence and pleaded guilty with this aim in mind (see Earlier in July, four editors and two academics, along with 32 opposition leaders and activists, were sentenced and subsequently pardoned and released following an apparent deal for clemency struck with the authorities. Editors Zelalem Guebre (Menelik) and Abey Gizaw (Netsanet), sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment on 16 July, were not included in the pardon.

Moreover, the Ethiopian government is understood to be seeking to revive genocide charges against nine other journalists who were acquitted and released in April. These genocide charges carry the death penalty. The journalists are due to appear before Ethiopia’s Supreme Court in November.

Please send appeals:


  • Protesting the 4 to 15 year prison sentences imposed on journalists Gebrekidan, Kebede, Moges and Tantu;

  • Calling on the Ethiopian government to dismiss all charges against these four journalists and to release them immediately and unconditionally;

  • Further, to dismiss all charges against the journalists Guebre and Gizaw, who have been sentenced to life imprisonment in absentia;

  • Urging the government not to reinstate genocide charges against the nine journalists who were acquitted in April.


His Excellency Meles Zenawi

Office of the Prime Minister

PO Box 1031

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: 251 11 1552020/ 251 111 241194
Salutation: Dear Prime Minister

Mr Seyoum Mesfin

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

PO Box 393

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: 251 11 551 43 00 
Salutation: Dear Minister

Mr Assefa Kesito

Ministry of Justice

PO Box 1370

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: 251 11 5517775 / 5520874
Salutation: Dear Minister

It may be most effective, however, to send the above appeals via the Ethiopian Embassy in London:

His Excellency Mr Berhanu Kebede
Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia
17 Prince’s Gate
London SW7 1PZ
Fax: 44 (0)20 7584 7054

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