The Federal High Court 19th bench decided against the appeal presented by the bloggers and journalists who are suspects and are charged by the federal prosecutor and held under custody for the last 125 days. The court passed the decision on August 20.
The six bloggers in custody are Atnaf Berhane, Befekadu Hailu, Abel Wabela, Mahlet Fantahun, Natnael Feleke, and Zelalem Kibret. Soliana Shimeles was charged in absentia. The three journalists are Tesfalem Waldyes, Edom Kassaye, and Asmamaw Hailegiorgis, an editor at the weekly magazine, Addis Guday.
The suspects argued that one can deny the bail only if the charge falls under article three of the anti terror proclamation No. 652/2009 and they further argued that a suspect is denied bail if the suspect has committed one or more actions listed under article three of the proclamation.
However, they mentioned that the federal prosecutor could not provide at least one action listed in the article and the prosecutor rather mentioned article four of the proclamation, which is not appropriate and hence added that the charge is not presented based on the anti terrorism proclamation and requested that their case be seen in a regular procedure of law and grant them bail.
On the other hand, the suspects also claimed that their case needs constitutional interpretation and the charge brought to them is against the constitution and bail right is denied from the presumption that if bail is secured, the suspects may disappear.
According to the court decision, the prosecutor charged suspects for the protection of the public and the government and therefore it can present the case narrowly or widely and say that the court is examining the charges brought against them based on the anti terror proclamation. Whether the case been seen by the regular law or by the anti terror proclamation the charge is presented by the country’s the anti terror law.
Another appeal by the suspects that is the case of constitutional interpretation. The court decided that the charge brought against the suspect and the articles in the constitution are not against each other, therefore the court has dismissed their appeal.
Another objection that the suspects brought to the court was that the prosecutor said the defendants were organizing other members who are not yet detained. For that allegation, they argued that the prosecutor did not provide the list of the names of those suspects and this in turn narrows their right to defend and also creates a state of fear on others who might be witness in favor of them.
Moreover, in relation to the items that the prosecutor holds as exhibit, since the items have got nothing to do with the charge, they requested the court to order the reimbursement of the items.
In relation to the charge that states that they were disseminating articles that incite public violence, the suspects said that the prosecutor did not refer to anything about the where, when and what of the dissemination of articles and present their objection by requesting the court to drop or change the charge.
After the court passed the decision of granting the defendants bail the lawyers of the bloggers and journalists stated that they will appeal the case to the Federal Supreme Court.
The court adjourned for October 15, 2014 to hear the preliminary objection by the federal prosecutor.