Ethiopian judge rejects Reeyot Alemu’s final appeal

In a ruling that lasted five minutes, a new judge appointed to the Ethiopian Court of Cassation in the capital, Addis Ababa, rejected on January 8, 2012, an appeal filed on behalf of award-winning journalist Reeyot Alemu, according to local journalists. 

Reeyot, who wrote columns critical of the government for the now-defunct independent weekly Feteh, has been imprisoned since June 2011on terrorism charges in a case that has aroused international indignation. In January 2012, she was sentenced to 14 years in prison and a fine of 33,000 birrs (US$1,500) under Ethiopia’s vague anti-terrorism law. The charges–planning and conspiring a terrorist act; possessing property for terrorist acts; participating in the promotion or communication of a terrorist act–were based on emails the journalist received from pro-opposition discussion groups; reports and photos she sent to the U.S.-based opposition news site Ethiopian Review; unspecified money transfers from her bank account; and photos of anti-government graffiti taken in Addis Ababa, according to court documents reviewed by CPJ.

In August, an appeals court acquitted the journalist of the first two charges, but upheld the third, reducing her 14-year sentence to five years.

Judge Abdulkader Mohammed said he did not find any error of law in Reeyot’s previous convictions and upheld the five-year sentence, according to local journalists.

The Court of Cassation is the last resort for legal appeals in Ethiopia, according to legal experts.

Reeyot is a 2012 winner of the International Women’s Media Foundation Courage in Journalism Award.