Police arrested Woubshet Taye, deputy editor of the weekly Awramba Times, and Reeyot Alemu, columnist for the weekly Feteh, on June 19 and 21, respectively, on vague accusations of terrorism. The journalists have been held for more than 65 days with no official charges placed against them and no access to legal counsel, local journalists told CPJ.
In a court hearing last month, Taye said state officials repeatedly tortured him while he was being interrogated in Maekelawi Prison in the capital, Addis Ababa, local journalists said. Ethiopia's constitution dictates that a suspect cannot be compelled to make a confession and that any evidence obtained under coercion is admissible. Taye is due back in court on September 13.
Alemu's overall health rapidly deteriorated during her detention at Maekelawi Prison, according to local journalists who visited her in prison. Her relatives were allowed to visit her and brought her medicine for chronic gastritis, which improved her condition somewhat. She is expected back in court on September 14, local journalists told CPJ.
"We are very disturbed by Woubshet Taye's allegations of torture and call on authorities to immediately investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime," said CPJ East Africa Consultant Tom Rhodes. "Authorities must also provide adequate medical treatment for Reeyot Alemu."
Ethiopia's July 2009 anti-terrorism law criminalizes any reporting considered supportive to groups that the government has labeled "terrorists." In June, the government formally classified five groups as terrorist entities, including the banned political party Ginbot 7.