Ethiopian pop star jail term cut

February 18, 2009

The singer has been in prison for almost a year and could be free in less than 12 months, once time served and good behavior are taken into account.

Afro is hugely popular among young Ethiopians and sings mainly in the local Amharic language.

As with all of Afro’s previous court appearances, small groups of young fans gathered on the streets surrounding the courthouse Wednesday awaiting the appeal verdict.

Hundreds protested outside the court when his trial began in April — an unusual event in a country where dissent is rare.

The pop star’s songs have been used as protest anthems by opposition supporters who have taken to the streets and his fans believe his conviction was motivated by his music.

Afro’s last album, Yasteseryal (Redemption), coincided with Ethiopia’s 2005 election, which led to violent protests and the jailing of opposition leaders.

Opposition politicians in Ethiopia have accused the government of clamping down on dissent ahead of parliamentary elections due next year.

(Reporting by Barry Malone; editing by David Clarke and Phakamisa Ndzamela)