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

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Middle East Stability

Analysts say ancient dispute that traces back to Islamic Revolution is fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observers say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid