Free Reeyot Alemu, an Ethiopian Prisoner of Conscience

March 21,2014


Reeyot Alemu is an Ethiopian school teacher and columnist whose wings have been clipped and her mouth sealed. Reeyot has been in prison, after an unfair trail, for the past 1000 days.

Reeyot, prior to her unjust incarceration, wrote a weekly column for many Amharic-language newspapers. One of the fall-outs of the Arab Spring was that authoritarian governments in the MENA region panicked. As is wont with tyrants, many governments were afraid that the wave of dissent might spread to their country and engulf their regime.

In Ethiopia, Reeyot and four other journalists who were arrested in 2011 and convicted based on a trumped up charge of terrorism. The other journalists are Woubshet Taye, Eskinder Nega, Yusuf Getachew and Solomon Kebede.  

On June 21, 2011, Reeyot Alemu was abducted from the high school where she taught English Language. The place of her arrest and the charges for which she was being detained were concealed from her family. According to the Safe World for Women, Reeyot’s dignity was assaulted by Ethiopian authorities for “refusing offers of clemency in exchange for providing information on other journalists, was punished with nearly two weeks in solitary confinement.”

What was Reeyot Alemu’s crime? Safe World for Women explains: “Four days before her arrest, Alemu had written a scathing critique of the ruling political party’s fundraising methods for a national dam project, and had apparently drawn parallels between late Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi and Ethiopia’s then-Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi.”

Reeyot was held in solitary confinement for three months before her trial, without legal counsel. Her charges were both vague and witnesses sprung from thin air to implicate her. And as though that were not enough, in a pre-mediated media framing, a documentary ran on state television in Ethiopia that painted Reeyot as a terrorist.

Eventually Reeyot was handed a 14 year sentence after a sham trial. In August 2012, the appeal court commuted the 14 years sentence to a five years prison sentence. The court also threw out the terrorism charges against her.

Reeyot Alemu is currently has a tumour in one of her breasts, which is also bleeding. Sadly her condition is without proper medical diagnosis, thus giving great concern about her health conditions. It should be noted that women with malignant breast lumps, in absence of specialized and immediate treatment stand chances of losing a whole breast or even death. 

Reeyot deserves to be free; it is not a privilege but a human right. Her dignity has been violated, her voice has been so forcefully silenced and above all her life hangs treacherously on a thin line. Reeyot Alemu, a prisoner of conscience, should be commended not condemned. This woman of valor should be praised not imprisoned. Free Reeyot now before she dies in prison!By Nwachukwu Egbunike

posted by Daniel tesfaye


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