News: As arrests continue the police seek to indict 14 more suspects on terrorism charges

Bir. Gen Asaminew Tsige (Social Media)

Mahlet Fasil

Addis Abeba, July 10/2019 –  The federal police have brought 14 more individuals who were detained over last weekend to the federal first instance court Arada branch on Monday July 08. The police have told the court that the detainees, who were arrested in connection with the June 22 high level government officials assassinations, were suspects of terror-related offenses.

This is the second appearance in court of a group of individuals who the police is seeking to charge under the Anti-Terrorism proclamation. On June 26 six individuals, including three members of the “Addis Abeba Bale’adera Mikir Bet” (roughly, Addis Abeba caretaker council), a movement spearheaded by activist/journalist Eskinder Nega, were brought to the same court. They remained under police custody after the court granted the police 28 days to remand and investigate the suspects inline with Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law.

Among the 14 detainees who were brought to court on Monday are activist/journalist Elias Gebru, secretary of the Addis Abeba care taker council, and Desta Assefa, the wife of Amhara regional state alleged coup ringleader Bir.Gen Asaminew Tsige. Four of the suspects are under 18 years old and three are brought from Benishangul Gumuz regional state. The file is opened under Elias’ name.

According to defense lawyer Henok Aklilu, the police have accused the individuals of having links with the assassination of high level government officials and claimed that they have seized forged ID cards and illegal weapons from the suspects. Henok also protested the handling of suspects in the hands of the police at the Addis Abeba Police Commission in Piassa and filed a complaint at the court. The judges have subsequently ordered the police to respect the suspects’ rights in custody. “I am following compliant of the police,” Henok told Addis Standard. The court has granted the 28 days requested by the police and adjourned the next preliminary hearing on August 05.

The hearing took place in the same day when the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) said it was also preparing to press legal charges against individuals & media organizations that it said were engaged in disseminating unfounded allegations & false information against it in the wake of high level assassinations.

On Sunday June 07, a statement released by the joint task force comprised of members from the National Defense Force, the Attorney General office, the Federal Police, the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) as well as security officials from the Amhara regional state, said that as of the released of the statement 213 people were detained in Amhara regional state including “senior security officials in charge of the region’s special force.” The statement said 60 individuals were detained in Addis Abeba suspected of having links with the assignations both in Bahir Dar and Addis Abeba, while ten others were detained suspected of money laundering, putting the number of people detained at 283.

However, the National Movement of Amhara (NaMA), a newly formed opposition political party challenging the regional government headed by Amhara Democratic Party (ADP), and which on June 27, accused the government of arresting 56 of its members from various places in the country disputed the figures given by the government and said that more than 80 of its members were currently detained in Addis Abeba, in various places in Oromia and Benishangul-Gumuz regional states as well as Amhara regional state. It called on the government to release all suspects immediately. And according to a report on VOA Amharic, 56 people were detained and later on released on bail in East Hararghe zone, Meta Wereda in Oromia regional state accused of financially supporting NaMA.

Amnesty International and Committee to Protect Journalists have also released a statement yesterday condemning the arrests of journalists and cautioning the government to avoid sliding in to its past practices of criminalizing freedom of expression. AS

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