News / Africa

Famed Ethiopian Actor Charged Under New Anti-Terrorism Law

Ethiopian police have arrested a famous actor in an ongoing roundup of terrorism suspects that has also netted journalists and prominent opposition politicians. Opposition leaders and rights activists are accusing the government of using a new anti-terrorism law to silence political dissent.

Legendary stage and screen actor Debebe Eshetu was shown on Ethiopian television in handcuffs, the latest in a series of government opponents to be charged under a broad anti-terrorism law that went into effect earlier this year.

Debebe was the face of Ethiopia’s political opposition during the 2005 election campaign, appearing in television ads for the Coalition for Unity and Democracy. He was among opposition leaders convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison after disputes over the election results led to demonstrations in which nearly 200 protestors and 6 police officers were killed. All were later pardoned.

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal says Debebe is accused of having links to the Ginbot Seven, a political party led by Berhanu Nega, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005, but never took office and later went into exile in the United States, where he is a professor at Bucknell, a prestigious East Coast university.

Berhanu has advocated the overthrow of the current government by any means, and his party was one of five organizations outlawed under the new terrorism law.

Spokesman Shimeles said anti-terrorism police had been monitoring Debebe’s activities for some time.

"According to federal police, he was arrested yesterday [Thursday] afternoon on suspicion of involvement in clandestine terrorist activity that links him to Ginbot Seven," he said. "The police had information regarding the activity of this particular person and was following him very closely until they thought it is time to execute arrest."

Debebe’s arrest shocked many Ethiopians who know him as a legendary stage and screen actor. A former colleague in the CUD, Mesfin Hailemariam, called it ‘inconceivable’ that Debebe would be plotting a terrorist attack. In a telephone interview, “Professor Mesfin” as he is known, expressed concern about the wave of arrests under the anti-terror law.

"This is going on now and I don’t know where it will lead us," he said.  "As far as I’m concerned, Debebe Eshetu is not a person who could be involved in any violent plan."

Debebe’s arrest comes at the end of a two week period that has seen dozens of people charged under the new anti-terrorism statute, including journalists and prominent opposition politicians.

Two leaders of parties representing Ethiopia’s Oromos, the country’s largest ethnic group, were arrested days after meeting a pair of Amnesty International delegates. The Amnesty team was expelled from the country.

At a news conference Friday, leaders of the main opposition bloc Medrek condemned the roundup as politically-motivated.

Former Ethiopian President Negasso Gidada, now a Medrek leader, says the arrests are intended as a warning to anyone who might oppose the ruling party.

"It is only blackmailing people and having them arrested without cause, just to intimidate not only them, but those of us who are outside of prison," he said. "But we want to say to the government, this will not help, it will even strengthen our dedication, our commitment to struggle for freedom."

The anti-terrorism law has also been used against five journalists, including two Swedish freelancers who were caught in the company of an outlawed rebel group in Ethiopia’s restive Ogaden region. Two reporters for independent Ethiopian newspapers were also arrested, though the government denies the charges have anything to do with their journalistic activities.  

The fifth accused is the operator of a stridently anti-government website based in the United States.  Elias Kifle of the Ethiopian Review website was charged in absentia. The website is among many, including voanews.com, that are blocked in Ethiopia.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid