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Relief Group Calls For Release of Detainee In Ethiopia

Among those arrested this week by the Ethiopian government is Daniel Bekele, the policy manager in Addis Ababa for the relief organization ActionAid. The group says the arrest comes as the government seems to be increasingly targeting NGOs. ActionAid says it fears this may lead to disruptions in aid to Ethiopia’s poorest citizens.

Fikre Zewdie is the group’s country director for Ethiopia. He told Voice of America reporter William Eagle that Mr. Bekele was arrested by authorities last Tuesday evening at his home and taken to a local police station called Bole Woreda. Mr. Fikre says the ActionAid official was not involved in this week’s protests, although he says Mr. Bekele, a lawyer, had criticized the government in the past for violating the constitution in suppressing dissent. The government has said that by law, protestors must ask for a government permit, which can be turned down. The government says this week’s protests were illegal, while the opposition says it is exercising its constitutional rights to protest peacefully and to speak out against authorities.

Mr. Fikre of ActionAid says Mr. Bekele has not been charged with a crime and has not been allowed to meet with a lawyer. He says according to the constitution, detainees must be charged and taken before a judge within 48 hours of arrest. He has written a letter to the chief inspector trying to gain Mr. Bekele’s release.

Mr. Fikre says Action Aid colleagues in other parts of parts of Ethiopia say disturbances have spread to two other cities in the Amhara region, Bahir Dar and Gondar. Both are several hundred kilometers north of Addis near Lake Tana.