ETHIOPIA / Detained March 25, 2018
On March 25, 2018, Hailu was re-arrested along with 11 other human rights activists and journalists. The arrests were carried out while the defenders were attending a private gathering in Addis Ababa at the home of journalist Temesgen Desalegn. The gathering was held in recognition of the recent release of thousands of political prisoners amidst ongoing and widespread protests against political marginalization and land grabbing in the Oromia and Amhara regions which began in late 2015. Hailu, along with fellow Zone9 blogger Mahlet Fantahun was arrested for violating the State of Emergency provisions that forbid gathering en masse and is being held at Gotera-Pepsi Police Station in Addis Ababa.
Prior, Hailu was arrested on April 25, 2014 along with other Zone 9 bloggers and journalists who aim to spread awareness of human rights violations. He was charged with terrorism and attempting to incite violence. During the trial, Hailu reported that he was forced to make false confessions. On October 16, 2015 Hailu was acquitted of terrorism charges, but was held in prison on charges of inciting violence under the criminal code. Five days later, he was finally set free.
Befeqadu Hailu is an IT specialist and a diligent blogger of Zone 9, an Amheric blog run by a group of activists whose motto is: “We blog because we care.” The blog is “mainly aimed at creating an alternative and independent platform of ideas on the socio-political conditions of Ethiopia—in which public discourse will be encouraged.” The name, “Zone 9,” is a play off of the eight zones in Kality Prison, the main jail where Ethiopia’s political prisoners are held. The bloggers refer to the entire country as “Zone 9” because of Ethiopia’s lack of democratic freedoms. In November 2015 the Zone 9 bloggers were awarded the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. Hailu has worked as a journalist since 2009 and won the Burt Award for African Literature in 2012.