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Despite Pardons, Others Still Face Trial in Ethiopia


The pardoning of 38 people by the Ethiopian government does not mean that all the cases stemming from the 2005 election protests have been resolved.

For example, the NGO ActionAid says Daniel Bekele, its policy manager in Ethiopia, and Netsanet Demissie, general manager of the Organization for Social Justice in Ethiopia, are still on trial. They refused to sign a document admitting wrongdoing.

Richard Miller is the director of ActionAid UK. From London, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about their cases.

“(They) were charged over 18 months ago as part of this trial with crimes of outrage against the Constitution and constitutional order. They always said they believed their activities were entirely legal and they entered a plea of not guilty from the outset of the court proceedings. They always engaged with the court proceedings, unlike these other people who’ve been pardoned today (Friday). And they’re ready and waiting to present their defense. So they want to demonstrate in court the activities they engaged in were entirely legal and didn’t undermine the Ethiopian constitution, but in fact protected and promoted it,” he says.

The two men refused to sign a document signed by those who were pardoned, admitting the use of “unconstitutional means to change the constitutionally established government functions.”

Miller says, “They didn’t sign because obviously they don’t believe they did that. They believe that any of the activities they were involved in, that’s primarily the work in monitoring the 2005 parliamentary election and their involvement in a civil society initiative to resolve the post-electoral impasse.” He says that those actions were “positive contributions in Ethiopia and were performed in a peaceful and constitutional manner.”

Their trial continues next week.

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