Tuesday, May 3, 2016

State terrorism in Ethiopia

On April 15, 2016, the Ethiopian Federal High Court acquitted two men, Yoantan Wolde and Bahiru Degu, who spent more than 600 days incarcerated on terrorism charges that critics allege were politically motivated. Zelalem Workagenehu, a third man, was not so lucky. He was convicted and will be sentenced on May 10. (On April 26, the public prosecutor submitted a sentence aggravation statement to the court, and Zelalem was asked to file a sentence mitigation letter on his part.) Zelalem is a human rights advocate and a scholar who regularly contributed to the diaspora-run website DeBirhan.
All three were accused under Ethiopia's Anti-Terror Proclamation, which was adopted in July 2009. State officials defend the law, saying it is modeled on existing legislation in countries such as the United Kingdom.
Yonatan Wolde and Bahiru Degu were released after spending 647 days—almost two years—in prison, demonstrating a disturbing trend in Ethiopia where prisoners of conscience are locked away for long periods without a trial.
Bahiru Degu, who attended his former co-defendant's trial last week, struggles the most among the three men. He told the court he experienced extensive torture during the first three months of his detention:
I was forced to get naked and was regularly beaten. Due to the severity of the beating, I was unable to control my bowels [sic]. I was forced to drink my own urine.
To read their story, click here.

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