News / Africa

Ethiopian Court Sentences Oromo Separatist to Death

An Ethiopian court has handed down a death sentence to an alleged leader of an outlawed Oromo separatist group and given stiff prison terms to 15 others convicted of plotting to overthrow the government.

A three-judge panel found 16 defendants guilty of conspiracy to wage war on Ethiopia's government as part of a plan to establish a separate Oromo state.  Oromos are Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, comprising about 40 percent of the country's population.

The verdicts were handed down last week, but the news was delayed because of the Easter holiday.

The defendants were arrested in 2007 and 2008 and were accused of being members or sympathizers of the Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF, which the government considers to be a terrorist group.

Most were sentenced to jail terms of 10 to 13 years without parole.  But alleged group leader Mesfin Abebe was sentenced to death.  Another defendant, Tesfahun Chemeda, was given a life term.

Ethiopian Justice Ministry spokesman Mekonnen Bezabeih says the charges included killings and armed robberies aimed at terrorizing the population, and financing the OLF's separatist campaign.

"They were high officials of the OLF party, and they tried to overthrow the government and tried to secede the Oromia federation from the federal states.  And they robbed a factory; they killed police and other security persons in Oromia," Bezabeih said.

The accused included several prominent Oromo businessmen and politicians.  Two were well-known Addis Ababa hotel operators.  Another was Bekele Jirata, general secretary of the Oromo Federal Democratic Movement, or OFDM, which is part of the main opposition bloc in Ethiopia's upcoming parliamentary elections.

Bekele has been listed in the U.S. State Department human rights report as a political prisoner.  Other defendants in the case are listed as victims of arbitrary detention.

But Bekele was released on bail during the court proceedings and disappeared early this year.  He was sentenced in absentia.

OFDM party leader Bulcha Demeksa says Bekele had denied being an OLF member, and that he had fled the country to escape what he thought would be an unfair verdict.

"He knew that they never care for evidence.  They just sentence you to whatever they want.  He knows that, so he had to run away," Demeksa said.

According to Bulcha, Bekele said he was tortured in prison, charges the government denies.

The OLF case is the second in recent months in which death sentences have been handed out to alleged coup plotters.  Five prominent opposition political activists were sentenced to die in late December in the so-called Ginbot Seven, or May 15, case.

Four of those, including Ginbot Seven party leader Berhanu Nega, were sentenced in absentia.  Berhanu, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia's 2005 elections, never took office.  He lives in exile in the United States.

The only Ginbot Seven defendant present in court to hear the death sentence pronounced was Melaku Tefera, an official of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice party.  UDJ leader Birtukan Mideksa is also in jail, serving a life sentence in connection with violent post-election demonstrations in 2005.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More