29 December 2016

Ethiopia: Dr. Merera Gudina of the Opposition OFC Facing Potential Charges of Terrorism

Photo: Addis Standard
Dr. Merera Gudina, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress.

Addis Abeba — The federal high court Arada branch has today granted the police additional 28 days to remand and investigate prominent opposition leader, Dr. Merera Gudina, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).

The police have told the court that they were investigating Dr. Merera for "potential offenses related to terrorism," indicating that the opposition leader, who the government maintains was only detained under the six-month state of emergency, is now likely facing potential charges of terrorism.

Speaking to the judge, Dr. Merera vehemently denied any terrorism allegations and said that he has spent his life teaching against the ideals of violence and terrorism, according to his lawyers. The hearing this afternoon was conducted in closed court as families, friends, colleagues and diplomats who have come to witness the hearing were all kept out of the court room.

Dr. Merera was detained upon arrival in Addis Abeba after finishing a tour to several European countries for more than three weeks. During his tour Dr.Merera delivered a speech to members of the European Union Parliament on current political crisis and human rights violations in Ethiopia. Dr. Merera was joined by two other prominent invitees: Dr. Berhanu Nega, leader of the opposition Patriotic Ginbot 7 (G7), which is designated by Ethiopia's ruling party dominated parliament as a "terrorist organization" and is now actively fighting the regime from the northern part of the country, and athlete Feyisa Lilessa, Olympic silver medalist who gave a significant impetus to a year-long Oromo protest that gripped Ethiopia when he crossed his arms in an X sign at the finishing line.

The government continued to maintain Dr. Merera is detained only for violating a section of the State of Emergency which prohibits contacts with "terrorist organizations".

In a statement issued released on Dec. 20th, The Ethiopian embassy in Brussels, Belgium, said "Dr Merera Gudina was arrested... for violating directives of the state of emergency."

"Despite his awareness of these provisions, Dr. Merera Gudina allegedly met and discussed with the leader of a group listed as terrorist in Brussels from 7-9 November 2016. Hence, the arrest of Dr Merera Gudina is not related with the meeting in the European Parliament but the alleged discussion with the leader of a terrorist group. If this meeting is confirmed by the investigation, this would have to be considered as a clear and deliberate violation of the state of emergency."

According to Ethiopia's infamous Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009, police investigating potential suspects of terrorism can obtain from a court four months of each 28 days to remand and further investigate suspects.

Arguing for the additional 28 days of remand, the police have told the court that they were translating e-mails, electronic files, other documents and banking details related to Dr. Merera. An internal memo from a private bank which was circulating on social media since yesterday allegedly shows the Bank's request to all its departments to provide the police all the banking details of Dr. Merera Gudina dating back to one year from Nov. 30 2015 to Nov. 30, 2016.

Today's request to remand Dr. Merera Gudina is the second since his arrest on Nov. 30th. The next hearing is set for January 26, 2017. AS

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