Andualem says beaten in detention (AFP)
Addis Ababa – An Ethiopian opposition leader charged with terrorism said during a court appearance on Monday that he was severely beaten by a fellow inmate, terming it a murder attempt.
“There was a murder attempt against me and according to criminal procedure, I want to file a charge against the prison because I did not get adequate medical attention,” said Andualem Arage, of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party.
“I demand to be taken out of that prison,” added Andualem, who has been in detention since September.
Andualem, who walked in court limping and complained of severe headache, has been charged alongside 23 others, including prominent Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega.
He said he was beaten on February 16.
Judge Endashaw Endale said the prison administration must present the case to the court before formal charges lodged.
Andualem’s co-defendants said they feared for their own safety since the inmate accused of attacking Andualem had not been relocated.
“We are afraid, so we take turns sleeping and we are afraid he will poison our food,” one of the accused, Kinfemichael Debebe, told the court.
UDJ chairman Gidada Negasso said the accused attacker, convicted of murder, should not be held with prisoners undergoing trial and should have been reprimanded.
“Right away the court should have said this is wrong and… the prison administration should also punish him,” he told AFP.
Negasso filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission about the attack, but said he had not received a formal reply.
Government officials were not available for comment. The trial is expected to resume on March 26.
All the 24 accused are charged under Ethiopia’s anti-terrorism legislation, which rights groups have criticised of being far reaching and used to stifle peaceful dissent.
Some 200 people were charged under the legislation in 2011.