News

Ethiopian UN Security Official On Trial for Terrorism

An Ethiopian national working for the United Nations in the restive Ogaden region is being tried on terrorism charges for allegedly having links with an outlawed rebel group. The defendant was arrested last year after helping to negotiate the release of two kidnapped U.N. aid workers.

U.N. security officer Abdirahman Sheikh Hassan appeared briefly in an Addis Ababa courtroom Monday. His case was continued until May 15.

Hassan was arrested last July under Ethiopia's anti-terrorism law. A charge sheet seen by VOA accuses him of intent to forcefully overthrow Ethiopia's government as a leader of the banned Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

Weeks before his arrest, Hassan had been involved in negotiations to free two employees of the U.N. World Food Program. The pair had been kidnapped and held for more than six weeks by unknown gunmen after their vehicles were ambushed during a mission to monitor food aid distribution in Ethiopia's drought-stricken Ogaden region.

One of their WFP colleagues was killed in the ambush and another was badly wounded.

The government accused the ONLF of carrying out that attack. But the ONLF strongly condemned the incident, calling it “cowardly and cold-blooded.” A statement emailed to journalists alleged that government forces had attacked the WFP vehicles after the humanitarian workers stumbled upon evidence of mass murders by government troops.

A government spokesman called the allegations “preposterous.” The competing claims could not be verified because Ethiopia sharply limits access to the Ogaden region, where a counterinsurgency operation is under way.

Sources close to the case say that as a senior U.N. security officer in the region, and a Somali speaker, Hassan played a crucial role in communicating with whoever kidnapped the WFP workers. But the government has presented as evidence transcripts of telephone conversations suggesting he had been taking orders from an exiled senior ONLF official.

In a telephone interview, the U.N. country representative for Ethiopia, Eugene Owusu, cautioned not to make too strong a connection between the case of the abducted workers and Hassan's arrest.

"The premise of your point is that any difficulties he has have to do with his role in the incident that took place," said Owusu. "I think that is not quite correct. The issue is, one has to be careful and not misinterpret this to mean that it is totally and directly linked to that incident."

Owusu said U.N. agencies have been in close touch with the Ethiopian government to ensure Hassan's rights are protected.

"This is something we've been working with the government intensively to ensure that the proper privileges and immunities are respected, and there is open sharing of information between the government and ourselves on this issue," he said.

The anti-terrorism law under which Hassan is charged has been sharply criticized by human rights and media freedom groups, who say it can be used to suppress political dissent. Government spokesmen reject that charge, arguing that the law is based on similar statutes in other countries.

The ONLF has been fighting since 1984 for autonomy of the Ogaden region, which borders Somalia. The rebel group was among five organizations outlawed as terrorists last year, shortly before Hassan's arrest.

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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs