Ethiopia’s Eskinder Nega refuses to sign false confession in exchange for prison release | CPJ

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Eskinder Nega is still in jail after refusing to sign a false confession in exchange for freedom. (Eskinder family)

New York, February 9, 2018–The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the Ethiopian government’s attempts today to compel Ethiopian journalist and blogger Eskinder Negato sign a false confession before releasing him under a presidential pardon. Eskinder, who has spent almost seven years in jail for his work, was one of 746 prisoners due to be pardoned by President Mulatu Teshome on February 8, according to media reports.

“Through this deplorable behavior the Ethiopian government is undermining any goodwill it might have generated by releasing an innocent man from prison,” said CPJ Africa Program Coordinator Angela Quintal. “Ethiopian authorities should immediately release Eskinder Nega without condition.”

At 11 a.m. local time, a prison official asked Eskinder to sign a form which falsely stated that he was a member of Ginbot 7, an organization that the government deems a terrorist group, Eskinder’s wife, Serkalem Fasil, told CPJ. Eskinder refused and asked to see a more senior official. That request was not granted and the journalist was returned to his cell, his wife said.

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Eskinder is serving an 18-year sentence on vague terrorism charges, according toCPJ research. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention condemned his 2012 trial and conviction and said it was connected to his “peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression.” The group found his arrest without warrant and prosecution was flawed, and the trial fell short of international standards of fairness.

Source: CPJ


  1. I am deeply troubled to hear and learn such horrible; the government takes series action any authority security or police who may have tried to have Eskinder sign the false statement on behalf of the government; this is treasonous

  2. Come on now!!! Pardon is pardon and it is considered so when given with no pre-condition. There is no 50% or a quarter pardon. Otherwise, it is going to be called a negotiated settlement. Let this family man go!!! You told his son that his dad is coming home soon just yesterday and now you gonna tell him if doesn’t ask the pardon already given that he is not? Come on man!!!

  3. The problem is the government is trying to walk a fine line between respect of the law and the criminal justice system and its political decision.

    As far the law is concerned, Eskinder Nega and many others now being considered for release are convicted and sentenced by courts to long term imprisonment. They have exhausted appeals in the system and serving the terms they are given by courts.

    All things considered, their choices are limited to applying for PARDON which they can do at any time while serving their sentences and leave prison if granted pardon or complete their sentences and get released. A pardon forgives and ends punishment but the punishment can be reinstated upon revocation of the pardon.

    They have long years to serve to complete their sentences which are egregious given the nature of charges and disproportionate sentences. Given the short number of years they had served compared to the years they are sentenced, the issue of parole is out of question. Once you’ve served time, you might be eligible for parole. Being paroled means you have been released from jail or prison before you’ve served your entire sentence.

    A third possibility is unconditional release on purely political considerations; this is a fair and most desirable one for all parties concerned in the process. It implies admission on the part of the government that there had been a miscarriage of justice even suggesting the sentences were based on trumped up charges or corrupt judicial practices. It is a win – win situation for the prisoners since, by the admission of the government itself, they should not have been in prison in the first place. They will walk free without criminal record and any limit on their civil liberty and political future.

    If the law is to take its course which means full enforcement of the sentences, Eskinder Nega and others like him can only be eligible for release upon completion of the sentence which they have not gone even half way through. In the last few years of serving their sentence, they might be eligible for parole, but that’s a long way from now.

    Fortunately, the government says it wants to release them before they complete their sentences. The question is is this PARDON or unconditional release on political considerations? From what we read now, it seems the government prefers PARDON than unconditional release. The above brief introduction suggests why Eskinder Nega – may be others too – refused to sign what appears to be an application for PARDON.

    Signing an application for PARDON does not erase the sentence can be revoked, the sentence reinstated for similar or other crime; civil and political rights might as well be curtained. In the meantime, PARDON protects the government from responsibility from actions for miscarriage of justice and other political measures.

    Well! Eskinder Nega and others who questioned the unfairness of release on PARDON are in a tough spot. After years of suffering in horrible prison conditions and pressure from family and friends, they might say “What the heck – give me your paper, I’ll sign it and get out of here”. But, Eskinder is a principled it appears to be holding his ground.

    Good luck!


    I hope the government will come to its senses and simply send them home.

  4. Correction one of the last sentences . . .

    But, Eskinder is a principled guy who appears tobe holding his ground.

    Good luck!

  5. Great job patriotic, warrior and democracy loving freedom fighter Eskinder Nega.

    You and all patriotic, warrior and freedom fighting and democracy loving Ethiopians all over the world will never ever compromise on the TRUTH. TRUTH, INTEGRITY AND HONESTY IS THE BEST POLICY. THE TRUTH NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH SO HELP ME GOD.
    Even though devil worshiping, criminal and murderous TPLF/EPRDF have never ever practiced truth, integrity and honesty and value only MONEY/POWER, we the patriotic Ethiopians value TRUTH, INTEGRITY, HONESTY AND ETHICAL BEHAVIOR more than anything else.
    After we kick the ass of the son of bitches TPLF/EPRDF very very soon, TPLF/EPRDF members and their foot soldier will be forced to take their sticking butt to court. All of them will be given access to lawyers, those found guilty we be jailed. All of them will be jailed in a decent prison and none of them will be tortured or executed. The new Ethiopia will treat every Ethiopia in a civilized manner and those who break the law of the land will be punished appropriately. No amount of corruption will be tolerated. Those involved in a single corruption will be punished severely. Welfare as a safety net will be available to all Ethiopians. No Ethiopian will be allowed to be homeless and those will moderate to severe disability will be taken care of handsomely.

  6. I think Eskinder Nega and others who refused to sign which appear to be “application forms for pardon” have put the government at a difficult spot. In fact, it is a continuation of the resistance against its rule by other means.

    The government wants to release the prisoners and declare another success in what it calls national political dialogue and widening the political space.

    But the modalities of the release of Eskinder Nega and others have not been figured out when the political decsion to release was made. It was not, for example, clear if it was conditional or not conditional.

    With the request to sign what seemed to be “application forms for pardon” the government appeared backtracking on its promise to release. Is it or is it not? For now, it appears backtracking.

    Most people I know think the forms Eskinder Nega and others like him are asked to sign are “application forms for pardon” and they refused to sign because of what the forms entail.

    Articles of our Criminal Code dealing with pardon provide that “a sentence may be remitted in whole or in part or commuted into a penalty of lesser nature or gravity by an act of pardon of the competent authority.” However, pardon cannot “cancel the sentence . . . which remains in the judgment register of the criminal and continues to produce its other effects”. Pardon can also be revoked leaving the relesed in precarous situation for years to come.

    I feel that Eskinder Nega and others who pleaded not guilty and defended themselves in court refused to apply for pardon which does not cancel the sentence they were given which might curtail their civil and political rights as citizens. On top of that, they might want the government to admit that they are victims of miscarrage of justice and make a correction to the injustice they faced. If they take pardon, these are not possible.

    The other alternative is amnesty which is also dealt with in our Criminal Code. In simple terms, an amnesty bars or discontinues any prosecution from the moment of it is granted. When a sentence has been passed an amnesty cancels it as well as all its other consequences under the law. The conviction shall be presumed to be non-existent and the entry deleted from the judgment register of the criminal.

    Compared to pardon, amnesty is a better option for Eskinder Nega and the other prisoners being considered for release. Still, amnesty is not similar to unconditional release which amounts to admission of miscarrage of justice on the part of the government and the opératives of the criminal justice system.

    It is not clear if Eskinder Nega and others who opposed to sign the musterious forms oppose both pardon and amnesty and demand unconditional release.

    In case of impsse, it won’t be bad to consider Amnesty since it does not curtail civil and political rights of the released. In any case, the country is chnging for the better and in few months the discussion whether pardon or amnesty is best might be renedered caduc.


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