A former Prosecutor takes on the case of Netsanet Demissie and Daniel Bekele – By Alemayehu Zemedkun

December 23rd, 2007 Print Print Email Email

“Treason,” “Attempted Genocide,” “trying to overthrow the government with unconstitutional means” does any of these sound familiar……….? (more…)

“Treason,” “Attempted Genocide,” “trying to overthrow the government with unconstitutional means” does any of these sound familiar……….?

Netsanet Demissie and Daniel Bekele are victims of TPLF/EPRDF government well orchestrated plan designed to send a chilling message to all Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) across Ethiopia that empowering seventy seven million Ethiopians to exercise their freedom of speech, respect for individual Human Rights, providing an understanding of basic given individual rights which are all essential for democratic aspiring institutions will ultimately result in consequences and severe repercussions. Their case is unprecedented given that both are not even members of any political parties.

However, to better understand the case of Netsanet and Daniel one has to really go back and look at the History of NGO’s in developing nations especially in the continent for Africa. NGO’s have been playing a crucial role in leveraging their skill for decades fulfilling many needs due to lack in capacity, infrastructure among others by governments trying to meet the needs of its citizens such the case in Ethiopia.

Over the last fifteen years the numbers of NGO have been growing steadily in Ethiopia to roughly about 1,500 registered organizations as of 2007 according to the Ethiopian government own records. This number is not staggering by any standards when one looks at a country such as Kenya which has 10,000 registered NGO’ with the government. The relatively small numbers in Ethiopia are due to many governmental bureaucracy and red tapes in acquiring permits. These relatively small number of NGO’s have served and continue to server crucial roles in various capacities from providing assistance in Economic Development, extending credits in a form of loans to poor farmers, assisting the most destitute and impoverished, to fulfilling the very basic daily needs of many Ethiopians.

Equally important also is the roles other NGO’s in providing Education to its citizens in understanding the importance of Democracy, good governance, holding their elected officials responsible, the importance of voting and participating in the political process. The work of many dedicated Ethiopians such as Netsanet and Daniel where on full display when 25 Million people come out to send a clear message to the government through peaceful means standing in line for 17 hours to cast their vote. Let me be very clear here that, these NGO’s where specifically tasked to help many Ethiopian register to vote, provide education and assistance on how to cast their vote without endorsing one single candidate which they did with the governments watchful eye through the entire process.

What was equally amazing was the number of NGO’s that insisted on being part of the election observation team despite the governments deliberate tactics to intimidate, sabotage and delay in approving and providing the necessary permits to carry out their duties. TPLF/EPRDF made sure that these NGO’s would not have the essential time to prepare to dispatch their observers to various polling stations by approving their licenses few hours before the election was to commence. This was deliberately designed to stall them from carrying out their mission. Despite TPLF/EPRDF callous and predictable behavior, many of the NGO’s would not be deterred and continued to participate as election observers in many polling stations throughout Ethiopia working closely with the supervision of the International community and TPLF/EPRDF.

Ethiopians having full knowledge of their individual rights wanted change in power and rightfully so. For TPLF/EPRDF this also meant that it had to embark on a new campaign to shatter and shock the NGO community for simply carrying out their mission. Knowing well this will require a cleverly orchestrated plan TPLF/EPRDF bunkered down to select their victims that will server as a pawn in delivering their message to the NGO community of their displeasure with their work and the election outcome.

Clearly it’s well know and documented now that Netsanet and Daniel where not a member of any political party which has been glaringly stated in the charges filed against them but are still accused of working with top CUD members to overthrow the government. Netsanet and Daniel articulated their case to the world in the Kangaroo court by doing a masterful piece in analyzing the criminal charge against them, weaknesses of the government bogus evidence, the strength of their defense according to Article 142|148 of the criminal procedure code.

What is more outrageous and laughable is that they have been charged with “treason” and “genocide” while trying to “overthrow the government with unconstitutional means.” The lead prosecutor couldn’t find a shred of evidence that would incriminate these individuals as stated in its bogus charges filed against them.

As an individual with seventeen years of background in Law I think I am somehow qualified to point out that the law in Ethiopia explicitly states that when an individual is charged with crimes such the charges filed against Netsanet and Daniel, if the prosecutor has no witnesses who can testify on behalf of its case as is the case here, then the immediate disposition should be acquittal by the court (Article 141st of Ethiopian criminal procedure). However, the Kangaroo court insisted that Netsanet and Daniel continue to defend themselves, a clear and deliberate attempt to punish them by making an example of them to the rest of the NGO community.

On December 24th 2007 the Kangaroo court will hand down its verdict and we should not be surprised if they are found guilty. Netsanet and Daniel are clearly incidental victims of vengeance used to server as mortar of retribution against the NGO community for executing its well publicized mission. We can not and should not spend one more day in silent while they languish in prison. Let’s make 2008 the year that we will finally liberate these courageous citizens and lets all pledge to redouble our effort so that the World knows of their fate. Now is the time for the Diaspora to rise and show the same commitment and resilience it has shown in securing the release of many opposition party members incarcerated unjustly. It’s for all these reasons that I humbly ask you to contact your elected representative and demand that TPLF/EPRDF release Netsanet Demissie and Daniel Bekele unconditionally now.

Thank you

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