Ethiopia Charges Opposition Figures, Reporter With Terrorism By Peter Heinlein

November 11th, 2011 Print Print Email Email

Ethiopia has formally charged 24 people, including senior opposition politicians and an outspoken Internet journalist, with plotting terrorist acts to create public chaos. Eight of the defendants appeared in court to hear the charges, while the others are to be tried in absentia.

Two leaders of Ethiopia’s Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, Andualem Arage and Natnael Mekonnen, stood alongside columnist Eskinder Nega in federal court Thursday to hear the charges against them. Most of the six charges involve alleged violations of an anti-terrorism law that has come in for harsh criticism from human rights and press freedom groups.

The trio were among the opposition figures arrested in police sweeps in September. They have since been held without bail. Former Ethiopian president Negaso Gidada, who attended the proceedings, told VOA by telephone that Natnael told the court he had been abused repeatedly in custody.

“Natnael complained that for 23 days he was beaten, his clothes were taken, he was left naked, water dumped on him and he was not allowed to sleep, and he had been physically and [psychologically] abused,” said Negaso.

Five other defendants also were in the courtroom to hear the charges, but observers attending the proceeding said it was not immediately clear who the others were. Sixteen more were charged in absentia, many of them believed to be living in exile in Europe and North America.

Prominent among the absent defendants was Berhanu Nega. Berhanu was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005, but did not take office and was jailed as part of the government’s crackdown on post-election demonstrations. He later fled to the United States, where he heads Ginbot 7, a group dedicated to overthrowing Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government.

Ginbot 7 is named for the Ethiopian calendar date of the disputed 2005 election. The group is outlawed under the anti-terrorism legislation.

Berhanu was convicted in another terrorism case last year, and received a death sentence in absentia.

Natnael and Andualem had been considered rising stars in Ethiopia’s weak political opposition. The opposition won only one seat in the 547-seat parliament last year, making Ethiopia a de facto one-party state.

In a country dominated by state-run media, Eskinder Nega had been one of the few outspoken policy critics of Prime Minister Meles and the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. He and his newspaper publisher wife were among those jailed following the 2005 election.

After they were freed, the government denied them publishing licenses, but Eskinder continued to contribute his scathing criticisms of government policy, mostly to foreign-based opposition websites.

Prime Minister Meles told a nationally-televised session of parliament last month the government has concrete evidence of journalists’ involvement in terrorist activities. He said many reporters working in the country are operating as “messenger boys” for terrorist groups.

The Committee to Protect Journalists [CPJ] lists Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea as among the foremost jailers of journalists. CPJ research shows eight reporters currently are imprisoned in Ethiopia.

  1. Enough is Enough
    | #1

    In the minds of Meles and his tugs, every Ethiopian that opposes Meles, give or take, about 87 million Ethiopians are considered terrorists.

    Who is more terrorist than the one that planted a bomb, locked up and gunned down unknown number of Ethiopians in Addis, Afar, Gambela, Gondar, Gojam, Diredawa, Welega and so many other parts of Ethiopia?
    Who is more terrorist than the one that has robbed Ethiopia and sold her land?

  2. Development without freedom
    | #2

    Melese has commited many crimes.

  3. Abiy
    | #3

    “…..’TPLF’ has formally charged 24 people, including senior opposition politicians and an outspoken Internet journalist, with plotting terrorist acts to create public chaos. Eight of the defendants appeared in court to hear the charges, while the others are to be tried in absentia.”

    After twenty years of iron fist rule of Ethiopia by the TPLF boss and ring leader Melese Zenawi, Ethiopians while they expect the situation will change for the better, continued to inflict unprecedented suffering against none Tigris Ethiopians. Historically the TPLF is linked with a spike of terroristic activity ranging kidnapping of diplomats and demanding ransom money for their release, bank robbery, and kidnapping and killings of civilian Ethiopians suspected of not cooperating with here. mission. There is no doubt; many in the diplomatic circles know Melese is the main culprit and terror chief. Wiki leak has exposed that the TPLF security service occasionally plants or detonates bomb and blame it on opposition organizations.

    Still, in one of the cables the U.s embassy exposed the decadent Melese for having confined to the U.S diplomats the assassination of Sudan’s president Al-Bashir. Proffessor Mesifin once used this Tigrian proverb to make his point about the TPLF clique.”Bizemene megilbitos Me eye Neakeb” or its Amharic equivalent,” Zemen sigelabete Zenam wede semay yezenebal”.If that was not the case we will not have in Ethiopia an occupier accusing innocent Ethiopians terrorists.

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