Bekele Gerba, a leading opposition chief in Ethiopia, has been granted bail by a Federal Supreme Court after months of being held in detention.
Gerba who is facing criminal charges is a secretary general of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) whose main leader Merera Gudina remains in detention for similar charges.
The Addis Standard news portal reports that the current order quashed an earlier one by a High Court in August refusing bail to Bekele. The Supreme Court imposed a bail bond of 30,000 birr (equivalent to about $1100).
Oromo activists and human rights watchers, however, insist that the charges which are politically motivated must be dropped.
Good to hear Bekele Gerba granted bail. Never should've been in detention in 1st place. Charges should be dropped https://t.co/3yhoB3pkoY— Felix Horne (@FelixHorne1) October 30, 2017
Bekele along with Dejene Fita Geleta, another OFC top official and 20 others were arrested in late 2015 in connection with the 2015 Oromo protests that resulted in the death of hundreds of protesters.
They were accused of inciting the deadly protests and having links with outlawed political party Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) which has been labeled a terrorist organisation by the government.
Gerba, a university lecturer, whose initial charge of terrorism was later downgraded to criminal charges has had several bail attempts rejected by the courts. At a point, the courts summoned top officials including Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to appear in court with relation to his case.
His daughter says the family remains skeptical despite the court orders, she told Addis Standard that the ruling was one thing and the release by prison authorities was another thing. His lawyer, however, maintains that he could be released as early as Tuesday.
“But we have to wait and see because sometimes the prison administration acts above the law,” Boontu Bekele, daughter of #BekeleGerba— Addis Standard (@addisstandard) October 30, 2017