Ethiopia’s Attorney General on Tuesday, August 18 ordered the release of Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma who has spent the past fifty days in police custody.
In Ethiopia to cover protests that followed the assassination of Ethiopian artist and activist Hachalu Hundessa, Juma was arrested at the house of a media mogul in the country and charged with inciting violence. He was arraigned alongside several others.
According to Juma’s lawyer Abduletiff Amee who spoke to journalists on August 18, the AG acknowledged that Juma was wrongfully arrested and blamed the misunderstanding on the language barrier.
Amee, however, read mischief in the explanation given for Juma’s detention suspecting it was a ploy for the state to escape liability in the matter.
“Is it convincing enough to say he was detained because of misunderstanding? Is that a tactic to escape from liability?” he posed.
Pressure had been mounting from the media fraternity as well as the Kenyan government over the detention of Juma.
The situation worsened for Juma after he was diagnosed with Covid-19 while still in police custody, with no access to treatment.
“I am currently being held at block (W) with 68 other Covid-19 positive inmates with no access to medication in overcrowded cells, no running water and no diet to assist us with our condition.
“My health is failing with each passing day, and I am not sure if I will make it. It is 50-50 with Coronavirus but the conditions in detention make my survival chances less,” Juma wrote in a letter from jail.
A court in Ethiopia had ordered the release of Juma on Wednesday, August 5 on bail but authorities were yet to comply with the order.
Protests from Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs also seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as their letters went unanswered while Juma languished in jail.
“In the last 47 days, a consular official (from the Kenyan Embassy in Addis Ababa) has managed to visit me twice but any efforts to have me released have seemingly stalled,” Juma wrote in his letter.