Alarming guilty verdict and imprisonment of veteran Somali journalist

Thursday, March 20, 2014

His Excellency Girma Birru
Special Envoy, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in the United States
Embassy of Ethiopia
3506 International Drive, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008

Dear Ambassador,

I am writing on behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that works to promote and protect press freedom and freedom of expression around the world.

CJFE is alarmed by the guilty verdict and imprisonment of veteran Somali journalist Mohamed Aweys Mudey in Ethiopia. Mudey was sentenced to 27 years in prison under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law in February based on unsubstantiated allegations of having information about Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab operations in Ethiopia and involvement in terrorist activities. The International Federation of Journalists has also spoken out against these spurious charges.

According to the National Union of Somali Journalists, Ethiopian officials charged 48-year-old Mudey with participating in terrorist activities after his arrest in November 2013 under suspicion of involvement in a terrorist attack in Addis Ababa. During the four month investigation, fellow detainees at the Ethiopia Crimes Investigations Sector witnessed Mudey being badly tortured and having trouble walking. He was later relocated and held in an unknown location designated for alleged terrorists. In a clear violation of his human rights, Mudey was also forbidden access to a lawyer and to his family.

Mudey is one of several journalists who has been unjustly prosecuted and imprisoned under Ethiopia's overly ambiguous anti-terrorism law. The broad definition of “terrorism” under this law is being used as a tool to suppress freedom of expression by sentencing and imprisoning journalists without a just trial. Furthermore, considering that Mudey was previously a victim of an Al-Shabaab terrorist attack, accusations of his involvement in the extremist organization are clearly not based in reality.

CJFE strongly urges Ethiopian authorities to release Mohamed Aweys Mudey immediately and unconditionally, and to reconsider charges against all journalists currently imprisoned in Ethiopia under the anti-terrorism law.

We thank you for your attention and I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Arnold Amber, CJFE President

Cc: The Honourable John Baird, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. David Usher, Ambassador to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Republic of Djibouti, and Permanent Observer of Canada to the African Union.