3 August 2007

Ethiopia: Jailed Anti-Poverty Campaigners Face Two-Month Wait for Verdict

press release

Judges trying the case of two anti-poverty campaigners in Ethiopia yesterday (Thursday 2 August) adjourned the trial until 8 October, when the court will give judgement.

Daniel Bekele, 40, policy manager of ActionAid Ethiopia, and Netsanet Demissie, 29, general manager of the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia, will now spend two more months in prison awaiting the verdict, while the court takes its annual recess.

The two were detained in November 2005 alongside opposition political leaders and charged in January 2006 with the crime of “outrage against the constitution and the constitutional order”.

Of 131 originally charged, they are the only two still on trial.

Amnesty International considers them to be prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders.

Yesterday (Thursday 2 August) they concluded their defence, after calling 29 witnesses and presenting 300 pages of documentary evidence. The prosecutors asked for time to consider the verbal and written evidence before presenting their concluding remarks. The judges agreed and said that the prosecutors must present a final written submission by 26 August and the defence should respond in writing by 31 August.

The court will reconvene on 8 October, at the beginning of the new legal year, to give judgement.

Ramesh Singh, chief executive of ActionAid said: “This further delay comes as a big disappointment when we were so near to the end of the process.”

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