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Zone 9 Bloggers, Journalists Blast Terror Charge, Plead Not Guilty

Defendants in the Zone 9 case blasted the prosecution’s terror charge for lack of clarity as they enter a plea of not guilty on Wednesday.

As the case crawls to trial, each of the nine defendants were asked by the three panel judges of the 19th criminal bench of the Federal High Court to enter a plea of guilty.

The bloggers and journalists, who remain in custody since April 2014, took turns to contest the prosecution’s charge which accuses them of causing “serious risk to the safety or health of the public or section of the public” and “serious damage to property” under the anti-terrorism proclamation.

“From the reading of the charge it appears I am being accused of terrorism. But an act of terror has been committed against me and not the other way round,” Befeqadu Hailu, second defendant, told the court.

“If this was a country where rule of law prevails, it would have been my accusers who should have been in my place,” followed Natnael Feleke.

The judges then intervened to reprimand the defendants to observe the legal procedure and avoid making such statements and simply enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

But the defendants continued to criticize the charge which they said lacked clarity.

“I could not understand what I am specifically being accused of and so it is impossible for me to enter a plea. I ask the court to help me understand the charge,” Zelalem Kibret, who was a law instructor at Ambo University prior his arrest, said.

The defendants include three journalists – Tesfalem Waldyes, Asmamaw Hailegiorgis and Edom Kassaye, – who all protested their innocence.

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