News / Africa

Ethiopia Police Deny Using Anti-Terror Law to Stifle Dissent

Ethiopian police have rejected accusations that the recent detentions of several high-profile government critics were politically motivated. The arrests are coming under increasing criticism from opposition parties and international rights groups.

Deputy federal police commissioner Demesash Woldemikael says there is no truth to allegations that a new anti-terrorism law is being used to stifle political dissent. Speaking to reporters Friday, Demesash said the recent detentions of journalists and emerging leaders in opposition politics are based on hard evidence.

Demesash says the arrests of the last few days have nothing to do with a person’s politics. He says police are only concerned with whether they have evidence that can stand up in court.

Officials say the detainees are accused of having contact with groups outlawed under the anti-terrorism law, and planning terrorist attacks. Deputy Commissioner Demesash gave no information Friday about what attacks might have been planned, arguing that the cases are still under investigation.

A federal counter-terrorism task force has caught several fierce government critics in a series of swoops. Among the latest to be detained were independent journalist Eskinder Nega and Andualem Aragie, a rising star in the opposition Unity and Justice for Democracy party.

UDJ leaders Friday described the terrorism charges as an attempt by Ethiopia’s ruling party to terrorize critics in the name of fighting terrorism. Former Ethiopian President Negasso Gidada, now the UDJ chairman, said the arrests of dissidents would strengthen the opposition, serving as a rallying cry for peaceful struggle against Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s 20-year rule.

"Now they imprison our emerging leaders. And the government is trying to intimidate us to stop the struggle and this will not happen at any time. And we are not frustrated, in fact we members and supporters and the people,… will more intensify our commitment to intensify the struggle," said Negasso.

UDJ General Secretary Asrat Tassie said he was skeptical about the existence of any terrorist threat. He said the detentions appear to be an attempt by Ethiopia’s ruling party to stem growing unrest.

"I doubt it. I personally feel this is kind of creating a shock, to shock the people so that when they are scared about their independence, scared about their liberty, they will always rally behind even the cruel government, even the dictator, otherwise I think there is not imminent danger," said Asrat.

The detentions have come under severe criticism from human rights and press freedom groups.  The Committee to Protect Journalists Friday reported that Sileshi Hagos, former managing editor of a now-defunct magazine that covered the activities of the Ginbot 7 political party was taken into custody this week. He is the sixth journalist held under the anti-terrorism law.

Ginbot 7 is led by exiled politicians who advocate the overthrow of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government. It is among five groups named under the new law as a terrorist organization.

The CPJ press release said local media reports on the detention of Sileshi Hagos and Eskinder Nega had portrayed them as "spies for foreign forces."

Human Rights Watch Friday called on the government to end what it described as a "broadening crackdown against dissent." Rona Peligal, deputy Africa director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted as saying the arrests are "just the latest reminder that it is very dangerous to criticize the government in Ethiopia."

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid