News / Africa

Government Critics Detained In Ethiopian Anti-Terror Sweep

Two fierce critics of Ethiopia’s ruling party have joined a growing list of government opponents detained in recent days under a new anti-terrorism law. The latest to be arrested are a journalist and a rising star in opposition politics.

Ethiopian federal police detained five people Wednesday in an ongoing roundup of terrorism suspects. Among them were Andualem Aragie, the youngest executive committee member of the main opposition bloc Medrek, and independent internet journalist Eskinder Nega.

Both men have been outspoken critics of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Party, which has ruled the country since seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1991. Both were among 130 journalists and political activists convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison following the disputed 2005 elections. All were later pardoned.

Government spokesman Shimeles Kemal says both Andualem  and Eskinder are accused of involvement with Ginbot 7, an outlawed party led by Berhanu Nega, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005 but never took office and now lives in exile in the United States. "Eskinder Nega and Andualem Aragie were arrested for conspiring with terrorist organizations such as Ginbot 7 and other foreign forces who wanted to wreak havoc in the country through their terrorist activities," he said.

Eskinder and Andualem are the latest of several high-profile opposition politicians and journalists arrested over the past few weeks under a recently enacted anti-terrorism law.

Popular actor Debebe Eshetu, who was the face of the opposition in 2005 election campaign ads, was picked up last week.   Debebe was also among those jailed following the election and pardoned.

Two top leaders of parties representing Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromos, were also jailed after meeting delegates of the human rights group Amnesty International. The Amnesty representatives were expelled from the country.

In addition five journalists have also been charged under the new law, including two Swedes captured while travelling with rebels in the restive Ogaden region, and a US-based Ethiopian internet journalist who was charged in absentia.

Eskinder and Andualem have been particularly outspoken in their criticisms of the ruling party.  In his latest internet post, Eskinder ridicules the terrorism charges against the actor Debebe Eshetu, describing him as a frail man in his mid-60s, the antithesis of the profile of a terrorist.

At an opposition news conference called last Friday, Andualem had alleged that the terrorism charges againts previous detainees  had been fabricated by a government worried that it is losing its 20-year grip on power.  "So long as you are not cooperating with the regime, then you will be labeled as terrorist the next morning. Beginning with the 2005 elections, this regime has very well understood it will never win the hearts and minds of the Ethiopian people so the solution they are left with is fabricating lies and jailing everyone they think is opposing them," he said.

Government spokesman Shimeles denied there was any connection between the arrests and the suspects’ professional activities. He told VOA the charges against the suspects involve a plot to violently overthrow the government.

"Ethiopia doesn’t espouse a policy that would prosecute people who advocate dissent, who would criticize the official positions and no one would be prosecuted for holding an opposition view. This has nothing to do with their personal political views. They are being arrested for plotting and conspiring to carry out and to launch terrorist attacks throughout the country," he said.

Government spokesman Shimeles declined to describe the nature of the terrorist plot the suspects are accused of involvement in. He said details would be divulged only after prosecutors complete their investigation of the case.

You May Like

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed 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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs