A state-affiliated media group in Ethiopia says a court has found 13 people accused of establishing a secret terrorist network guilty over the issue of Muslim face coverings.

The broadcaster, Fana, quoted the state prosecutor on Monday as saying the suspects used religion to conceal their terrorist intents and forge a secret network.

The group opposed the legal prohibition at universities of a Muslim face covering called the niqab.

Yilikal Getnet, chairman of the opposition Blue Party, said the verdicts are politically motivated and counter to religious freedom. Yilikal said no free country would charge a person with terror acts for opposing a dress code.

Ethiopia has arrested dozens of journalists, opposition figures and activists for alleged terrorism offenses. Rights groups say the government is trying to silence dissent.