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Ethiopian police arrest French journalist over espionage

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Ethiopia says it is detaining a French journalist who arrived in the country to cover the recent African Union (AU) Assembly meeting because he violated his terms of accreditation.

Antoine Galindo, a journalist for French investigative news site Africa Intelligence, reportedly arrived in Addis Ababa ahead of the AU Summit but was later detained on February 21 after which he was arraigned before he was re-detained.

On Monday, several press lobbies around the world demanded for his release even as Addis Ababa argued the journalist had flouted regulations.

A spokesperson from the Ethiopian government told the Nation that Galindo’s accreditation restricted him to cover the summit and side events.

“The Ethiopian Media Authority (EMA) has not issued any other permit to cover other local issues,” the spokesperson told the Nation on Monday.

“Police have therefore accused him of operating outside the accreditation he was given to cover the AU Summit plus accused him of engaging with members of militant forces that the country has outlawed for their attempts to destabilise a nation.”

Africa intelligence publisher, Indigo Publications Group, condemned the “unjustified arrest on February 22 and subsequent detection in Addis Ababa of one of its journalists.” The employer says it specifically wrote to the EMA in January advising that Galindo will, in fact, also be covering some local “Ethiopian affairs” and would like to interview some politicians.

The arrest reportedly happened at around 3:55 pm where Galindo was taken into custody by the officers while on a reporting assignment in Ethiopia. He has since been detained at the Addis Ababa Police Commission in the Bole District.

Mr Galindo was arrested at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel while interviewing Bate Urgessa, a political for the Oromo Liberation Front, “a party that is legally recognised in Ethiopia” his lawyer said. Ethiopian government considers the Front one of the ‘armed destabilisers’ in the country after their armed wing launched a series of attacks last year.

Mr Bate was also arrested alongside Galindo and were taken to the capital’s Bole-Rwanda police station, then to the Bole Sub City Police department where they are currently held.

The security forces accuse Mr Galindo of conspiracy to create chaos in Ethiopia. He appeared before the Addis Ababa City Administration Bole Division Court on allegations of conspiring with two armed groups OLA-Shene, to incite unrest in the capital.

OLA-Shene, is s term used by Ethiopian officials to refer to the Oromo Liberation Army rebel group and the Fano, a militia in Amhara state that has been fighting Ethiopian government federal forces since April 2023 when they refused to disarm under the Tigray peace deal of November 2022.

Mr. Galindo’s request to be released on bail was denied with the police saying they need to keep him in custody as they apprehend other suspects who were involved in the “conspiracy” as well as access his phone records.

The court granted the police custody of the Galindo and Bate until their next court appearance on March 1, 2024.

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