Ethiopia: Teddy Afro’s trial takes a strange twist

6 August 2008

The defence lawyer of reggae singer Teddy Afro and an editor-in-chief of a local newspaper which interviewed the lawyer were arrested in Addis Ababa on 4 August 2008. The lawyer was convicted to 50 days in prison on 6 August. 

By Tsigue Shiferaw – Freemuse’s reporter in Addis Ababa

The popular Ethiopian reggae star Teddy Afro is held in custody, charged with the death of Degu Yibeltal – a homeless young man who was killed in a car accident more than a year and half ago.

In mid-July 2008, the newspaper Addis Neger published an interview with Teddy Afro’s lawyer, Million Assefa. It was a the front page interview where Million Assefa told the newspaper that he was considering suing the judge of Teddy Afro’s court case, Leul Gebremariam, for not letting him defend his client properly. Million Assefa was quoted as saying “that he was considering taking action against judge Leul Gebremariam on disciplinary ground.”

One of the reasons for this was that in July, judge Leul Gebremariam of the Federal High Court ruled a verdict for singer Teddy Afro to defend himself against the prosecutors’ charge that he had been involved in the death of Degu Yibeltal, and adjourned his case to 9 October 2008.

Judge Leul Gebremariam held the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Mesfin Negash, as well as the defence lawyer responsible for the content of the interview and labelled it “contempt to the court”.

The newspaper’s deputy editor was also arrested on 4 August. He was released again later the same day, while the lawyer and editor-in-chief remained in custody until — at a court hearing in the morning on 6 August 2008 — Million Assefa was found guilty of contempt of court and was sentenced to one month and 20 days in prison.

Mesfin Negash, owner and editor-in-chief of Addis Neger, was released after the hearing on 6 August.

Trial full of irregularities
Prior to their first court hearing, on 5 August, I asked Million Assefa what he thought the judge had done wrong. Teddy Afro’s court case “is abuse of power from single individuals,” he told me, adding that “Teddy Afro’s trial was full of irregularities.”

When they appeared in court in the morning on 5 August both the editor and the lawyer looked surprisingly relaxed after a night in prison.

Teddy Afro has been held behind bars for over three months now. He is charged with the hit and run incident that occurred in November 2006. At the time the incident occurred he was detained briefly and released on a 50,000 birr bail, but then, on 16 April 2008, he was suddenly arrested again and taken to Kaliti prison facility, 25 kilometres out of the capital, suspected of killing the 18-year-old street boy. A taxi driver at the time allegedly tipped off the police to the license number of Teddy Afro’s BMW, which was later found in a ditch on the road towards the CMC residential area where the singer resides.

Teddy Afro pleaded not guilty to driving without a license and to negligent driving. His trial has been accompanied by a large crowd of his fans, family and friends who all believe he is innocent, framed by the authorities in order to silence his critique of the regime.




Teddy Afro




Teddy Afro sings ‘Baygemish’
– video on YouTube

4 June 2008

More video clips…


Listen to Teddy Afro’s controversial hit song ‘Yasteseryal’ in this radio report by Banning Eyre, NPR Music:

‘Teddy Afro, the New Reggae God of Ethiopia’

Teddy Afro’s MySpace profile:
Freemuse recommends
…that you read this article:

Los Angeles Times – 11 August 2008:

‘In Ethiopia, jailed singer Tewodros Kassahun is a political symbol’

Google News – continously updated:

Search: ‘Teddy Afro’ – 5 August 2008:

‘Ethiopia: Teddy Afro’s Lawyer Behind Bars on Contempt Charges’ – 12 July 2008:

‘Ethiopia: Teddy Afro abandoned by Ethiopians!!’

Ethiopian Review – 5 July 2008:

‘Federal Police savagely attacked a female reporter’

Committee to Protect Journalists – 5 May 2008:

‘Ethiopian police detain editor, impound magazine over pop icon story’

International Freedom of Expression Exchange, IFEX – 5 May 2008:

‘Magazine issue seized, its editor and others imprisoned’

Addis Journal – 2 May 2008:

‘Teddy Afro fans to face charges’

African Path – 24 April 2008:

‘Ethiopia: Why Teddy Afro and why now?’

Addis Journal – 23 April 2008:

‘Court adjourns Teddy’s hearing’ – 20 April 2008:

‘Ethiopia – Teddy Afro – An Ethiopian Hero & a Prisoner of Conscience’
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