A judge in Ethiopian Federal High court on Tuesday passed a guilty verdict against, former opposition Blue Party public relations head, Yonatan Tesfaye.
Yonatan was first arrested in December 2015, barely a month after the first wave of a year-long Oromo protests erupted.
He was held incommunicado during the pre-trial weeks and was subsequently charged in May 2016 under Ethiopia’s infamous anti-terrorism proclamation (ATP).
I think the government's intent and what it seeks is this: to restrict others from speaking freely.
The opposition leader has been defending the charges against him since then. The charges of encouragement of terrorism’, stipulated under article six of the ATP, were largely drawn from his Facebook activism during the protests.
While his lawyer and defence witnesses argued the former spokesman of the opposition Blue Party was exercising his right to free speech, judge Belayhun Awol ruled the comments “exceeded freedom of expression” and amounted to encouraging terrorism.
“I think the government’s intent and what it seeks is this: to restrict others from speaking freely,” Yonatan’s lawyer Shebru Belete Birru told AFP after the verdict.
He had presented several defense witnesses, including prominent opposition party leaders from the Oromo Federalist Congress.
According to article six of the ATP, “Whosoever publishes or causes the publication of a statement that is likely to be understood by some or all of the members of the public to whom it is published as a direct or indirect encouragement or other inducements to them to the commission or preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism… “ is subject to terrorism charges.
Yonatan could face from ten to 20 years rigorous prison term in a federal prison. However, the court ruled that he could appeal for a minimum sentence.