(Amnesty International, 7 April 2020, The Ethiopian authorities must immediately release two journalists from the Oromia News Network and three Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) officials who remain in custody a week after charges against them were dropped and the court ordered their release on 31 March.
The authorities must desist from this intimidation, harassment and arbitrary detention and immediately and unconditionally release these five individuals.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa
“The Ethiopian authorities continue to detain five people long after the court ordered their release. The authorities must desist from this intimidation, harassment and arbitrary detention and immediately and unconditionally release these five individuals,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa.
The five were charged with taking a photo at the Burayu police station, and for traffic offenses relating to an incident where a vehicle rammed into the back of the police car the arresting officers were using. The prosecutor later dropped the charges, stating none of the alleged acts were crimes under the country’s criminal law.
The police however continue to detain the individuals claiming there were irregularities with the names on their identification documents. However, they have not presented the five in court with any new charges.
The detained are Batir Filae, OLF Central Committee member; Gadaa Gabisa, OLF political officer; and Bilisuma Ararsa, OLF member. With them are Desu Dula, the Vice Director of the Oromia News Network (ONN) and Wako Nole, a journalist with the network.
For more information on the mounting harassment of OLF members and supporters, see links below.
(Advocacy4oromia, 9 July 2015) At least six Oromo university students were also among three journalists and two bloggers released from Ethiopian prison yesterday, according to various reports.
The freed Oromo university students include Adugna Kesso, Bilisumma Dammana, Lenjisa Alemayo, Abdi Kamal, Magarsa Warqu, and Tofik. All were students who were arrested by security agents from various universities located in the Oromiya regional states. No charges were brought against many of them in the last year and three months.
The arrest of unknown numbers of Oromo University students followed a May 2014 brutal crackdown by the police against university students who protested when a master plan for the expansion of Addis Abeba, the city originally home to the Oromo, was introduced by the federal government.
The 10th Addis Abeba and Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Master plan, which was in the making for two years before its introduction to the public, finally came off as ‘Addis Abeba and the Surrounding Oromia Special Zone Integrated Development Plan.’
The government claims the master plan, which will annex localities surrounding Addis Abeba but are under the Oromiya regional state, was aimed at “developing an internationally competitive urban region through an efficient and sustainable spatial organization that enhances and takes advantage of complementarities is the major theme for the preparation of the new plan.”
The students protested against the plan and the federal government’s meddling in the affairs of the Oromiya regional state, which many legal experts also say was against Article 49(5) of the Ethiopian Constitution that clearly states “the special interest of the State of Oromia in Addis Abeba.”
Two months ago, student Nimona Chali, one of the detained students, was released from jail without charges. Abebe Urgessa of Haromaya University is still in Qaallitti prison.
Student Aslan Hassen died in prison in what the government claimed was a suicide.
However, many believe he was tortured to death. No independent enquiry was launched to investigate his death.
By the government’s own account, eleven people were killed during university student demonstrations in many parts of the Oromia regional state. However, several other accounts put the number as high as above 50.
About Abebe Urgessa
Abebe Urgessa was a second year student, Water Engineering Major, at Haramaya University. After classes were interrupted following the #OromoProtests movement that swept the whole nation in April 2014, Abebe like many other students went to visit his family till the classes resume.
He was arrested upon arrival at a small town called Teji, in South west Shawa, where his families are living. After detention incommunicado for three weeks, he was falsely accused of standing in a market place telling people not to pay taxes to the government. Though the court released him on bail on the 21st of May, 2014, student Abebe was abducted again just a week later on the 29th of May.
While his where about still remains a mystery to this very date, it’s known that the government accused him, on its media outlets, of detonating hand grenade at the Haramaya University facility.
Abebe’s story designates with many other innocent Oromo students unlawfully abducted and falsely accused with bogus charges while being taken to or kept at undisclosed detention centers under severe tortures, more often than not. His story is just one among the many.
October 27, 2014
Victims include politicians, students, singers and civil servants, sometimes only for wearing Oromo traditional dress, or for holding influential positions within the community, the London-based advocacy group said in a report today. Most people were detained without charge, some for years, with many tortured and dozens killed, it said.
“The Ethiopian government’s relentless crackdown on real or imagined dissent among the Oromo is sweeping in its scale and often shocking in its brutality,” Claire Beston, the group’s Ethiopia researcher, said in a statement. “This is apparently intended to warn, control or silence all signs of ‘political disobedience’ in the region.”
The Oromo make up 34 percent of Ethiopia’s 96.6 million population, according to the CIA World Factbook. Most of the ethnic group lives in the central Oromia Regional State, which surrounds Addis Ababa, the capital. Thousands of Oromo have been arrested at protests, including demonstrations this year against what was seen as a plan to annex Oromo land by expanding Addis Ababa’s city limits.
Muslims demonstrating about alleged government interference in religious affairs were also detained in 2012 and 2013, Amnesty said in the report, titled: ‘Because I am Oromo’ – Sweeping Repression in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia.
The state-run Oromia Justice Bureau said the findings were “far from the truth” in a reply to Amnesty included in the report. “No single individual has been and would not be subjected to any form of harassment, arrest or detention, torture for exercising the freedom of expression or opinion.”
The majority of detainees are accused of supporting the Oromo Liberation Front, which was formed in 1973 to fight for self-determination, according to Amnesty.
Senior Oromo politicians Bekele Gerba and Olbana Lelisa were jailed in 2012 for working with the group, which was classified as a terrorist organization by lawmakers in 2011.
“The accusation of OLF support has often been used as a pretext to silence individuals openly exercising dissenting behavior,” Amnesty said.
The bulk of Amnesty’s information came from interviews with 176 refugees in Kenya, Somalia and Uganda in July this year and July 2013. More than 40 telephone and e-mail conversations were also conducted with people in Ethiopia, it said.
Some interviewees said they fled the country because of conditions placed on them when released, such as being told to avoid activism, meeting in small groups, or associating with relatives who were political dissenters, the report said.
Amnesty has been banned from Ethiopia since 2011 when its staff was deported.
To contact the reporter on this story: William Davison in Addis Ababa at email@example.com
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