Ethiopian Court Sentences Oromo Separatist to Death – Peter Heinlein (VOA)

April 8th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

An Ethiopian court has handed down a death sentence to an alleged leader of an outlawed Oromo separatist group and given stiff prison terms to 15 others convicted of plotting to overthrow the government.

A three-judge panel found 16 defendants guilty of conspiracy to wage war on Ethiopia’s government as part of a plan to establish a separate Oromo state. Oromos are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, comprising about 40 percent of the country’s population.

The verdicts were handed down last week, but the news was delayed because of the Easter holiday.

The defendants were arrested in 2007 and 2008 and were accused of being members or sympathizers of the Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF, which the government considers to be a terrorist group.

Most were sentenced to jail terms of 10 to 13 years without parole. But alleged group leader Mesfin Abebe was sentenced to death. Another defendant, Tesfahun Chemeda, was given a life term.

Ethiopian Justice Ministry spokesman Mekonnen Bezabeih says the charges included killings and armed robberies aimed at terrorizing the population, and financing the OLF’s separatist campaign.

“They were high officials of the OLF party, and they tried to overthrow the government and tried to secede the Oromia federation from the federal states. And they robbed a factory; they killed police and other security persons in Oromia,” Bezabeih said.

The accused included several prominent Oromo businessmen and politicians. Two were well-known Addis Ababa hotel operators. Another was Bekele Jirata, general secretary of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement, or OFDM, which is part of the main opposition bloc in Ethiopia’s upcoming parliamentary elections.

Bekele has been listed in the U.S. State Department human rights report as a political prisoner. Other defendants in the case are listed as victims of arbitrary detention.

But Bekele was released on bail during the court proceedings and disappeared early this year. He was sentenced in absentia.

OFDM party leader Bulcha Demeksa says Bekele had denied being an OLF member, and that he had fled the country to escape what he thought would be an unfair verdict.

“He knew that they never care for evidence. They just sentence you to whatever they want. He knows that, so he had to run away,” Demeksa said.

According to Bulcha, Bekele said he was tortured in prison, charges the government denies.

The OLF case is the second in recent months in which death sentences have been handed out to alleged coup plotters. Five prominent opposition political activists were sentenced to die in late December in the so-called Ginbot Seven, or May 15, case.

Four of those, including Ginbot Seven party leader Berhanu Nega, were sentenced in absentia. Berhanu, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia’s 2005 elections, never took office. He lives in exile in the United States.

The only Ginbot Seven defendant present in court to hear the death sentence pronounced was Melaku Tefera, an official of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice party. UDJ leader Birtukan Mideksa is also in jail, serving a life sentence in connection with violent post-election demonstrations in 2005.

    | #1

    MR. Melse, please let let your daughter to be free.You should be proud of this progressive dynamic future leader of Ethiopia.Believe me she will be your president one day if you allow free election in Ethiopia.

  2. Anonymous
    | #2

    Here in Europe, the value of an individual’s life is so high that if one person, for example, dies in accident or is murdered, it makes news. Because life has worth, it is an event.

    In Africa in general and in Meles’s Ethiopia in particular, this however is not the case.

    The value of the lives of human beings in our many parts of the continent and indeed in our country continent is greatly inferior to pets and animals in the zoo in the U.S and Europe. It is not just disease and poverty that make it so. Worse than that, the dictators like Meles who ruthlessly rule us don’t think that our peoples’ lives are sanctified.Rather,our lives, in their eyes, are cheap and expendable.Accordingly,Meles and Isayas could unleash a war from the comfort of their safe and luxurious palaces, the lives of 70,000-80,000 people would be lost and this is not an event. As though this were not enough and as though death had not stoked us so long and so much through starvation and disease,Meles goes on killing hundreds and thousands more because he thinks the way to deal with political opponents is to snuff out their ‘cheap ‘lives.
    Now in a similar move, he is routinely and callously, dishing out death sentences to his political adversaries which are not commensurate to their alleged crimes. ‘Kill them, they are like vermin’s’ is the attitude.
    Our current leader,like his predecessors in the country and his counterparts in other parts of Africa,has dehumanized us.
    Despite his diabolic lie to the contrary,he has made our lives worthless.He has made our death,the basis of his political life.

    How can you expect others(who cynically say ‘nothing new from Africa’) to respect you when you are treated in such degrading and inhuman way by your own leaders?

  3. Anonymous
    | #3

    TPLF, OLF and ONLF are the separatist group in Ethiopia. OLF and ONLF members are a bunch of brainwashed individuals who are created and trained by the evil masters of Essayasa and Meles. No matter how much one can be educated, it is impossible to wash out a brainwashed brain that have been trained to hate Amharas for generations. Amharas haven’t ruled Ethiopia for over hundreds of years and they have been struggling with day to day life worse than other ethnic groups, Amharas still live without running water, sewer system, Hospitals, schools and yet OLF, ONLF and TPLF members have been blaming Amharas for everything under the sun. It is hard to even think any group could be worse than Meles and Co., but I am afraid OLF might be the worst than we have seen so far, if they take power by force. I have met some of OLF members who are Evangelical Christians, but it is unfortunate that their hate towards Amharas is undeniable against the teachings of Christianity: to love and live with one another.

  4. Anonymous
    | #4

    No fair justice in minority Ethiopian ruling party. They try to wipe out all intellectual and bright people by accusing them with all kind of nonsense …. No doubt Ethiopia is and will be the bottom poor nation in the world. Hopefully, the western will intervene and help them free this innocent Oromos

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