US slams Ethiopia's 'political persecution' of critics
By AFP
May 3, 2013



The United States Thursday slammed "harsh" sentences handed down to an Ethiopian blogger and an opposition leader, voicing concerns about the "politicized prosecution" of government critics.

An Ethiopian court dismissed the appeals of blogger Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage, jailed last year for terror-related offenses.

Eskinder was given an 18-year sentence, while Andualem was jailed for life.

The US was "deeply disappointed" that Ethiopia's federal supreme court upheld the men's "conviction and harsh sentencing," acting deputy State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.

"Today's decision further reinforces our serious concern about Ethiopia's politicized prosecution of those critical of the government and ruling party, including under the anti-terrorism proclamation."

Ventrell stressed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives everyone "a right to freedom of opinion and expression, and that this right includes the freedom to hold opinions without interference."

Upholding such freedoms "is essential if Ethiopia is to realize its stated goal of being a democratic state," he added.

However, he could not say if the court's decision would impact a planned trip to Ethiopia by US Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of May.

Although no dates have been announced, Kerry told US lawmakers last month that he planned to attend celebrations to mark the African Union's 50th anniversary in Addis Ababa.

"We travel, and we continue our relationship with countries... where we have human rights concern," Ventrell said.


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