Court convicts defendants in Elias Kifle case

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Addis Ababa, January 19 (WIC) – The third criminal bench of the Federal High Court today found Elias Kifle and four other defendants guilty on terror charges.

With the conviction, defense lawyers have appealed to the court for the suspension of the sentence or the imposition of fines instead of subjecting their clients to serve prison terms.    

The court convicted Elias Kifle, editor-in-chief of the Washington based Ethiopian Review website, on all four counts of terror charges. Elias is tried in absentia.

The charges included conspiring to commit acts of terror, rendering support to terrorism, participating in a terrorist organization (Ginbot 7) and money laundering.

Elias is also found guilty of masterminding and providing financial support to the other defendants who remained under police custody since June 2011.

The defendants include Zerihun Gebregziaber, chairman of Ethiopian Unity Party, Woubshet Taye, former Deputy Editor of the defunct Amharic weekly Awramba Times, Reeyot Alemu, columnist at the Amharic weekly Feteh and reporter for Ethiopian Review and Hirut Kifle, who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2009 and later pardoned.

The court presided over by judge Endeshaw Adane found each of the four defendants guilty on three counts of terror charges.

The defendants quietly listened as the judge delivered the verdict rejecting their entire defense in a packed court early Thursday. Sentencing is due on January 26.

Defense lawyers have pleaded with the judge to avoid jail terms as they asked for leniency citing several mitigating grounds. Earlier Federal prosecutors had asked the court for the imposition of a ‘severe’ penalty on all the defendants.