Ethiopian authorities have clarified that leading opposition figure and Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Dr Merera Gudina is in detention for flouting state of emergency rules.
The specific provision he is said to have flouted related to an alleged meeting with a terrorist group during his visit to Brussels. The authorities said investigations are currently underway to verify the allegation.
A statement published by the Embassy of Ethiopia in Belgium refuted the assertion that Dr Gudina was arrested for meeting members of the European Parliament (EP).
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.
‘‘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,’‘ the statement read.
The EP last week officially wrote to the Ethiopian government seeking clarification on the arrest of Dr Gudina.
Ethiopian security forces arrested the academician and OFC leader shortly after his arrival in the capital Addis Ababa on December 1 from Belgium. Reports indicated that together with other Ethiopian activists and the Olympic athlete Feyisa Lelisa – he met with Members of the European Parliament on 9 November 2016.
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Ethiopia is currently under a six month state of emergency imposed to quell spreading anti-government protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions of the country. The protests which started in November last year continued into this year.
Since January 2016 the human rights situation in Ethiopia has not improved at all. Human Rights Watch reports that security forces have killed more than 500 people during protests over the course of 2016.
The government reported mass arrests of persons believed to be behind the protests, some are to be released whiles others will be arraigned before the courts on offences of destroying private and public property.
The Command Post administering the curfew says relative peace has returned to the country. There are issues also surrounding communication access with slow internet in most parts of the country. Some European countries have lifted their travel advice for Ethiopia with the ‘return to peace.’
The European Parliament adopted an urgency resolution on the violent crackdown on protesters in January 2016, which requested that the Ethiopian authorities stop using anti-terrorism legislation to repress political opponents, dissidents, human rights defenders, other civil society actors and independent journalists.