By ANDREW MELDRUM, The Associated Press
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Ethiopia’s Supreme Court has upheld the order to release on bail journalist Amir Aman Kiyaro, who has been imprisoned for four months without charges, rejecting a police effort to block his bail.
The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed the appeal by police against bail that had been granted by a lower court earlier this week for Kiyaro, an Ethiopian video journalist accredited to The Associated Press. That ruling said Kiyaro should be freed on bail while prosecutors determine whether or not to press charges against him.
The bail of 60,000 Ethiopian birr, about $1,170, has been paid, but Kiyaro remained in custody Thursday while police processed the bail paperwork before his expected release, according to his lawyer.
Kiyaro, 30, was detained on Nov. 28 in Addis Ababa under the country’s war-related state of emergency powers.
Kiyaro is accused of “serving the purposes” of what the government has classified as a terrorist group by interviewing its officials, according to reports by Ethiopian state media, which cited federal police. Local journalist Thomas Engida was arrested at the same time and faces similar charges. Ethiopia’s Supreme Court also ruled that Engida should be released on bail.
If the journalists are found guilty of violating Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism law or the state of emergency law, they could face sentences of seven to 15 years behind bars, federal police inspector Tesfaye Olani has told state media.
Despite the granting of bail after four months of police investigation and detention, it still remains uncertain whether prosecutors will proceed to press charges against Kiyaro. The state of emergency was lifted in February as the government cited changing conditions in the deadly conflict between Ethiopian forces and those of the northern Tigray region.
“We are relieved that journalist Amir Aman Kiyaro has again been granted bail,” Julie Pace, the AP’s executive editor, said. “However, Ethiopian authorities continue their investigation against him. We urge the Ethiopian authorities to drop their baseless investigation against Amir, an independent journalist targeted for his work.”
Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders urged Ethiopian authorities to immediately release Kiyaro and Engida and to not press any charges against them. “They should be freed with no further delay and the case be dropped!” said the group in a tweet.