By Jacey Fortin |

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Charges against five of the 10 defendants in Ethiopia’s most high-profile court case were unexpectedly dropped on Wednesday.

All 10 had been accused of working with terrorist groups. Six contributors to a blog called Zone 9 and three journalists were arrested in April last year; one more blogger was abroad and escaped arrest.

“The prosecutor has decided to withdraw the charges against five of the defendants,” said Shimeles Kemal, a government spokesman. At least three of those five have been released from prison so far.

The slow-moving court case has become a contentious issue in Ethiopia and abroad, with human rights groups arguing that the defendants were singled out for criticizing the government.

A defense lawyer, Ameha Mekonnen, said the news came as a surprise. “We were not called to appear before the court or anything,” he said. “The prison authorities told me some were released and that they had gotten a note informing them their case had been discontinued.”

Source: The New York Times

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