Canada under pressure to cut aid to Woyanne – OTTAWA (Reuters)

August 4th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

Canada’s government should consider curbing foreign aid to Ethiopia to express its unhappiness over the case of a Canadian jailed for life in the African country, a lawyer for the man said on Tuesday. (more…)

Canada’s government should consider curbing foreign aid to Ethiopia to express its unhappiness over the case of a Canadian jailed for life in the African country, a lawyer for the man said on Tuesday.

An Ethiopian court jailed Bashir Makhtal on Monday after he was convicted of membership in a rebel group fighting for independence for an ethnically Somali part of the country.

Lorne Waldman, Makhtal’s Canadian lawyer, said the charges were baseless and called on Ottawa to look at its aid to Ethiopia. In 2006-07, the latest period for which figures were available, the assistance totaled C$83 million.

“We have a lot of leverage because we provide a very generous aid package to Ethiopia,” Waldman told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“I believe we have the power to influence whatever happens to Bashir Makhtal and we’re hopeful the Canadian government will be very forceful in its approaches to the Ethiopians over the next few days,” he said.

Makhtal’s relatives in Canada, speaking after the sentence was handed down, also called on Ottawa to freeze foreign aid.

A spokesman for International Aid Minister Bev Oda referred queries on the future of the aid program to the office of Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon. In a statement issued on Monday, Cannon said Canada was “extremely disappointed” by the life sentence and would explore all options for helping him.

Makhtal’s Ethiopian lawyer says he will appeal the sentence, but Waldman said he had no hope of success.

Makhtal, who was born in Ethiopia but became a Canadian citizen in 1994, was found guilty last week on three charges related to membership of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. His grandfather was a founder of the group.

“There was evidence submitted from the group itself that said he wasn’t a member of the group. There are affidavits and evidence from other people who conclusively proved that Mr Makhtal could not have been where the Ethiopian government said he was during the relevant times,” Waldman said.

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