Ethiopia: Prominent Ethiopian Opposition Figures Charged With Terrorism Offenses

Media mogul-turned-politician Jawar Mohammed in 2017.

The Ethiopian government said it is charging prominent media mogul-turned-politician Jawar Mohammed and 24 others with crimes that include terrorism and incitement to violence, and will face a judge on Monday morning.

The charges, announced Saturday, relate to the violence after the shooting death of popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa in June, where some 239 people died in clashes with security and in inter-ethnic attacks.

Hachalu, beloved among Oromos, sang of the marginalization his ethnic group felt, both politically and economically.

Charges announced on Facebook

If convicted, Jawar and the others, including politician Bekele Gerba, could face life in prison.

Charges include "trying to incite ethnic and religious based conflict to cause citizens to turn on their fellow citizens" as well as firearms and telecoms fraud violations.

The attorney general's office posted the charges against the 24 in a Facebook post on Saturday, surprising many, including Jawar's lawyer.

His lawyer Tuli Bayissa told Associated Press newswire that he could not comment on the charges because he was not informed and only saw them on social media. He believes the charges are politically motivated.

The charges, announced Saturday, relate to the violence after the shooting death of popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa in June, where some 239 people died in clashes with security and in inter-ethnic attacks.

Hachalu, beloved among Oromos, sang of the marginalization his ethnic group felt, both politically and economically.

Jawar originally supported Abiy, and answered his call for exiles to return home and help rebuild the country. Both men are Oromo.

Although Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his work on peace with Eritrea, his domestic policies have angered many, including Jawar, who turned against him, saying that the prime minister has not done enough for the Oromo people.

In an opinion piece printed in the Economist this past week, Abiy said that those opposed to his reforms were trying to stir up inter-ethic and inter-religious hatred.

One of Jawar's timely critiques of Abiy centred on his decision to postpone the general election that was slated for August, due to Covid-19. No new date for elections has been announced, and Abiy's mandate ends in October.

Activists have criticized why the charges have been brought against the 24 suspects now, when they were arrested nearly two months ago.

Others believe these charges could stoke ethnic tensions again in Oromia.

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