Teddy Afro, one of Africa’s most popular musicians, has been found guilty of killing a homeless man and faces up to 15 years in jail.
Teddy Afro, one of the most popular musicians in Ethiopia, has been convicted of manslaughter and faces up to 15 years in jail.
The singer was found guilty of killing a homeless man in hit-and-run accident involving a BMW in the capital Addis Ababa in 2006. On hearing the judge’s verdict Afro is reported to have shouted: “Justice has not been served! I have been deprived of justice! I didn’t kill anyone!” He will be sentenced on Friday.
Afro’s trial has caused a sensation in Ethiopia. Prosecutors say that even celebrities must face the law if they behave badly. But supporters of Afro, whose real name is Tewodros Kassahun, say he is the victim of a political vendetta because he is perceived to be a symbol of the opposition movement.
Thousands of young men and women protested outside the federal high court when his trial began in April – a rare show of dissent in a tightly controlled state.
Afro first made his name on the Ethiopian music scene in 2001 with his mix of reggae and east African pop. He became renowned for songs paying tribute to the late Emperor Haile Selassie as well as athletics heroes Kenenisa Bekele and Haile Gebrselassie.
His third album, Yasteseryal, was released in 2005, the year of disputed national elections that saw mass anti-government protests quashed violently by the state. One of Afro’s songs accused the government of failing to deliver on promises of change, and his music became the unofficial soundtrack of the opposition struggle.
Afro was detained shortly after the hit-and-run incident in 2006, and released on bail. He was the biggest local star of Ethiopia’s millennium celebrations in 2007, before being arrested again and charged in April, leading Ethiopian bloggers to question why it took the authorities 18 months to decide to put him on trial. A least two journalists were arrested for writing articles seen as siding with Afro.
In his defence, Afro claimed he was out of the country on the night the hit-and-run took place.
But judge Leul Gebremariam said: “The court did not find the defendant’s counter evidence as substantial enough to drop the charges presented by the prosecutor.”
Several people in the court burst into tears as Afro left the court, giving a thumbs up sign to family and friends.