Blue Party has condemned a prison sentencing of its former members by the Federal High Court, which was passed this week. The Federal High Court passed a prison sentence against the former Public Relations head of Blue Party, Yonatan Tesfaye, and Getachew Shiferaw, editor in chief of Negere-Ethiopia, a weekly newspaper.
The party in its press release sent to The Reporter said that the sentence is a clear indication of intrusion of the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), in the justice system of the country.
In its ruling the court sentenced Yonatan to six and a half years and Getachew to one year and a half.
Yonatan, 29, was arrested in December, 2015 after accusing the government of using excessive force against demonstrators in Oromia Regional state.
His detention shortly came after a wide range of anti-government protest manly in Oromia Region. After his arrest, the government charged him with terrorism under the country’s infamous anti-terrorism proclamation.
The charges against Yonatan also alleged that Yonatan was posting messages on his personal Facebook accounts that incite violence and encourage protestors to loot and destruct properties. It also called upon a regime change through violence.
Prosecutors also accused Yonatan that his Facebook posts about the controversial Addis Ababa Oromia Integrated Master Plan had similar stance with the objectives of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an outlawed political party by the Ethiopian parliament.
A former high school teacher, Yonatan became visible in Ethiopia’s polarized political arena during the fifth national election. He was a Blue Party’s candidate during the election in the Bole constituency..
In its ruling last week, the court has partially accepted Yonatan’s three different appeals for minimum sentence.
His appeal include that Yonatan was the only source of income for ailing mother. He further listed the fact that he had no previous criminal records and was involved in several charity programs.
The party has further stated that since the state of emergency which imposed in October, 2016 close to 86 of its members across the country are jailed.
In a related news, the same court put Journalist Getachew, 33, behind bars. Getachew was detained by police two years ago.
His charge mainly came from his Facebook posts in which he was accused of endorsing and supporting an incident in which Abebe Gellaw, an exiled political activist heckled the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
“That prosecutors struggled to find a charge to levy against Getachew shows that Ethiopian authorities are desperate to lock journalists away and makes a mockery of this conviction,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal.
“Regarding Yonatan’s case we will definitely appeal to the court,” Yeshiwas Assefa, president of Blue Party told The Reporter.
Established in 2012, Blue Part was one of active opposition political parties during the last national election.