According to Amnesty International, laws designed to prosecute terrorism are increasingly being used to silence political dissidents, opposition party members, journalists and others in civil society.

By Salem Solomon (VOA News) |

A prominent Ethiopian political opposition member sits in prison on charges of terrorism. He faces a long sentence and possibly the death penalty if convicted.

But the tool he is accused of using to commit the crime wasn’t a gun or a bomb, and he isn’t connected to any kind of religious extremism.

Instead, Yonatan Tesfaye, a former spokesman of the Semayawi (Blue) party, was detained in December 2015 on charges under Article 4 of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation. Eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence. His posts were critical of the way the Ethiopian government handled the crackdown during the protests throughout the Oromia region. The Ethiopian government charged him with planning or inciting terror acts.

In May, Yonatan’s lawyer presented a statement to the court challenging the accusations and stating that Yonatan was only expressing his thoughts, which are protected by the constitution. His case is ongoing.

Increasing terrorism arrests

Yonatan’s case is not unique in Ethiopia or across Africa where, according to Amnesty International, laws designed to prosecute terrorism are increasingly being used to silence political dissidents, opposition party members, journalists and others in civil society. Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda have enacted similar laws in recent years.

Arrests and long pre-trial detentions are becoming increasingly common, and are worrying to Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes.

Continue reading this story on VOA News
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