New York, May 5, 2006—Initial proceedings in the treason trial of 14 Ethiopian journalists have reinforced concerns that the defendants may not get a fair trial, the Committee to Protect Journalists said. Prosecutors are due to start presenting evidence on May 8 against the journalists and dozens of opposition leaders accused of conspiring to overthrow the government.
“CPJ has analyzed a sample of the journalists’ writing which prosecutors have collected and found no merit to the charges,” said CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper. “We will be watching the proceedings very closely, and call again for these journalists to be released immediately and unconditionally.”
The journalists are charged with “outrage against the constitution,” “impairment of the defensive power of the state,” and “genocide,” charges which could bring a possible death sentence or life imprisonment. They have been jailed since November and denied bail. CPJ was able to meet with some of the jailed journalists and with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi during a recent visit to Ethiopia.
For more information, see CPJ’s special report released April 28: