November 23, 2020
Medihane Ekubamichael, Addis Standard’s product editor who is currently in police custody | Photo: via Addis Standard
By Mahlet Fasil | Addis Standard
Addis Abeba – Judges at the Federal First Instant Court have today granted the federal police eight more day to remand and investigate ten detainees, four of them journalists including Medihane Ekubamichael, product editor at Addis standard.
The arrest of journalists is not uncommon in Ethiopia but this round of arrests include journalists from state owned media the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) who are in the same file as Medihane. They are journalists Haphtom G/Egizabeher and Tsegaye Hagos are both Editors at the state owned Ethiopian Herald Newspaper published by EPAl; and Abreha Hagos Reporter at Al-Alem , the Arabic version of EPA.
Although all the ten were detained at different times, and never met each other before, the federal police have today put all the ten on one file and presented them this morning at the Federal First Instant Court.
During the hearing, the detainees requested for their cases to be presented separately and wanted to know why individuals who have not even met before are being included in the same file. They also requested for their rights for bail.
On their part representatives of the federal police said they were yet to finalize their investigations into the ten detainees who are in their custody and asked the court for additional 14 days to investigate.
Defense lawyer Wubshet Kassew, who represented Medihane, told the court that it was not clear as to what his client was suspected of. He also pointed out that as a journalist, his freedom of expression was being constricted and sked why Medhanie was rearrested just a day after he was released on mere warrant of a national ID card.
Responding to the judge’s request on the police’s progress of the investigation in the last 14 days and the progress left, representatives of the federal police said they have taken words from the detainees, dispatched letters to banks and to the Information Network Security Agency (INSA). Gathering evidences from electronic devices, taking fingerprints of suspects and catching their potential co=conspirators were left and asked for the additional 14 days to remand them and complete the investigations.
However, the detainees have all objected the 14 days on grounds that they have committed no crimes. They also objected the police’s approach of putting all the ten in one file even as they do not know one another.
After hearing both sides the court allowed additional eight days for the police. The court also ordered the police to present the cases of each defendant separately by clarifying the charges each of them were suspected of and adjourned the next hearing until December 1, 2020.
The commissioner of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele, has previously expressed concerns over the arrests of the journalists and called for due and fair process.
A total of six journalists, five of whom are Tigrayans, were arrested as of November 04 following the federal government’s launching of the ongoing military operation in Tigray regional state, only one, Bekalu Alamirew of Awlo Media, is released on bail.