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Ethiopian Police Clamp Down on Growing Student Protests

Ethiopian students demonstrate outside Addis Ababa Tegbareed Industrial College
Ethiopian police Tuesday raided a technical college in the capital Addis Ababa in a continuing clampdown on student protests that appear to be spreading.

Baton-wielding police entered the Addis Ababa Tegbareed Industrial Technical College where several hundred students were holding a demonstration and beat up many of them.

The students were protesting provisional election results that indicate a victory for the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front. They accuse the ruling coalition of massive vote rigging and other fraud.

The protesters were also calling for the release of hundreds of students who were arrested Monday at a similar demonstration at Addis Ababa University. One person was killed and several injured during clashes between police and students.

The head of investigations at the Ethiopian Human Rights Council, Birhanu Tsigu, tells VOA he thinks the authorities' heavy-handedness in dealing with the protests over the past couple of days has caused the unrest to spread.

"What the students were planning to do was just peaceful protests, just to show their opposition, their objection to the existing situation in a peaceful manner without leaving their campuses,” Mr. Tsigu said. “But now matters are exceeding university campuses and there are unrests almost everywhere in the city."

Mr. Birhanu says he has heard reports of unrest at some high schools in the capital city.

Ethiopian information minister Bereket Simon rejects the charge that the government responded to the protests in a heavy-handed manner.

"The university students were handled with proper care and with no incident in the campuses. It was outside of the campus where some people met roadblocks," Mr. Simon said.

Mr. Bereket says he thinks the student protests are part of a pattern of violence instigated by the main opposition group, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, which, according to Mr. Bereket, is unhappy with the provisional results. He says the opposition coalition incited the students to demonstrate.

The protests defy a month-long ban on all post-election demonstrations imposed by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on May 15, the day of the election.

Election results were supposed to have been announced Wednesday but the release was postponed for a month so that the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia could investigate allegations of irregularities in 299 constituencies.

Provisional results indicate that the ruling coalition has won 302 seats in the 547-member parliament, while the Coalition for Unity and Democracy has 122 seats.