Home | News    Sunday 18 September 2011

Ethiopia denies terrorism-linked arrests “politically motivated”

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

September 17, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Ethiopian government said the recent arrests made against opposition politicians and journalists were not politically motivated claiming that a terror plot was planned for the country’s New Year celebrations last week.

Ethiopian security forces earlier this week arrested five terror suspects on alleged links with Ginbot 7, an exiled political group, recently designated as terrorist organisation by Addis Ababa.

The Federal Police and the Government Communication Affairs Office (GCAO) in a joint press conference both gave on Friday said police has concrete evidence over their planned terror plot links to Ginbot 7.

Among the arrested included Andualem Arage, deputy chairman of the Medrek party, the country’s biggest opposition group, and three other opposition party members.

“Police have adequate evidence against these terror suspects with close links to the terrorist group Ginbot 7,” said Demelash Gebremichael, assistant the assistant commissioner of Ethiopia’s federal police.

He said the suspects engaged in undercover work for outlawed entities using their legal political membership as cover for their terrorism plots.

“Being a member of a political party does not exempt one from criminal liability and the evidence we will present to court during trial shows their involvement in terrorism,” Demelash said.

Following the arrests, Human Rights Watch urged the Ethiopian government to end what the rights group said was “a widening crackdown against opposition politicians and dissidents”

Adopted in 2009, Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation, contains a broad and vague definition of terrorist acts and makes the publication of statements "likely to be understood as encouraging terrorist acts" punishable by imprisonment for 10 to 20 years.

International human rights groups have described the Proclamation as “restrictive and vague” and have further criticised the broadly termed law as a weapon designed to easily accuse peaceful critics against government.

Minister of state at the Communications Ministry, Shimeles Kemal, defended the government over reports that the arrests were in order to suppress civil dissent.

“Such claim of arrests of individuals in the country because of political outlooks is baseless” he said.

“Over 90 political parties operate in the country and none of these political party members are being harassed or intimidated for their political outlook.”

Those being held were “leading a plan to throw the country into serious political chaos through a series of terrorist acts,” he added.

(ST)

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