In response to reports that Abel Wabella, a defendant in the Zone 9 blogger case in Ethiopia, was kept shackled overnight and had his hearing aid removed following a February 4 court appearance, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The brutal treatment of Mr. Wabella by prison officials amounts to torture,” said Vukasin Petrovic, regional director for Africa. “Since their arrest in April, the Zone 9 bloggers and journalists have endured horrific treatment at the hands of the Ethiopian police and prison officials. At the very least, the court should investigate these cases of torture and hold those responsible accountable.”
On February 5 , the court rejected a petition submitted by the defendants to have the presiding judge removed from the case due to his alleged unbalanced handling of proceedings. The presiding judge did, however, announce that he would recuse himself of the case on his own accord. The defendants are now required to enter a plea with a new presiding judge on February 18.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.