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Ethiopian Police Refuse to Release Journalists Granted Bail

Ethiopia Holding Journalists in Detention Centers Without Charge
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Ethiopia Holding Journalists in Detention Centers Without Charge

Ethiopian authorities have refused to release three detained journalists, despite a court order they be given bail.

Solomon Shumye, Meaza Mohammed and Temesgen Desalegn appeared Tuesday morning before the Federal First Instance Court and were granted bail of about $190 each.

However, the federal police force immediately appealed the judge's decision at the High Court. The High Court overruled the lower court's decision, and the three journalists were returned to police custody.

Their lawyer, Henok Aklilu, told VOA he was expecting that to happen but will continue to seek their release.

"These things have been very much common when politically motivated cases come to court, especially journalists who are very much critical of the regime," he said. "So, I was not surprised. You know, they give you bail in the lower court and it will be overturned by the higher court."

The three journalists are among 19 arrested last month in a crackdown aimed at reporters who have been critical of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government.

The government accuses the journalists of inciting violence and disturbing the country's peace through their work.

Henok told VOA it is not clear when the journalists will next appear in court.

"So, we were appealing to the court that they release this unreasonable suspicion by the police to arrest someone. But the police, you know, the police are the police. They come up with all kinds of stories, which are not substantiated by any real evidence," he said.

Authorities have accused Temesgen Desalegn, editor of privately owned Feteh magazine, of inciting violence and public disturbance through unspecified interviews published on YouTube.

Solomon Shumye, a current affairs talk show host, is accused of inciting violence on his show. It is not clear what accusations Meaza Mohammed faces.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has condemned the arrest of the 19 and called for the Ethiopian government to unconditionally release them.

Henok said he has filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, so the case does not become a criminal matter but is instead handled under Ethiopia's Media Proclaomation Law, which prohibits the detention of journalists.