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Friday, October 06, 2006

Trial update: High Court postpones hearing

Also in the news: *Wasihun Melese and Anteneh Getnet released* , Support the Ethiopian free press!, Rising Tensions Southwest Ethiopia, ICU facing off with Ethiopian troops, Ethiopia one of Russia’s biggest customers and more of today's top stories!

(ETP - Paulos Dandego) In a session that took only a few minutes, the Second Circuit Federal High Court, has once again postponed the hearing of opposition leaders, journalists and Human rights activists for October 13, 2006 Friday. The court stated as a reason failure of member judges to show up.

(Picture - leaders of the opposition party, kinijit) Prior to the courts recess in august, defendants Kassahu Kebede (chairperson of the Addis Ababa branch of Ethiopian Teachers' Association), Daniel Bekele (policy manager at ActionAid Ethiopia ) and Netsanet demisse (head of the Organization for Social Justice in Ethiopia) had protested against the prosecutions attempt to introduce additional “evidence”. The court was expected to give its ruling on this matter. These three defendants on several occasions have petitioned the Federal High Court to be tried separately.

The other defendants, which consist of opposition leaders and journalists, have refused to enter a plea saying they believe the country's justice system is not independent and as a result they do not expect a fair trial. Charges filed against them include: high treason, "outrages against the Constitution", inciting and organizing armed uprising, and endangering the integrity of the state. High ranking members of the opposition are also charged with treason and genocide which could carry a death sentence. The government previously had charged five American journalists with Genocide and outrages against the Constitution but these charges were later dropped amidst high pressure from the United States. The U.S at the time called the charges ridicules and an obvious attempt at intimidating the journalists.

Human rights organizations, such as Amnesy international and Human rights watch have repeatedly called for the unconditional release of all political prisoners, but the government of Meles Zenawi so far has shown no inclination to do so. With diminutive pressure form donor countries, who see him as an ally against terrorism, critics say, Mr. Zenawi believes he has become untouchable.

The EPRDF led government of Ethiopia is known for its long trials that take years to wrap up; many see this as a strategy by the ruling party to render its opposition useless. Scarce medical care at the detention centers coupled with the unsanitary conditions in which the prisoners are kept, has in the past left many opponents bedridden and some dead.

All in all, Yesterday’s court proceedings were uneventful, say observers. The excitement of the day came when the defendants first made their way into the courtroom. It was clear they haven’t seen each other in quite sometime and were very thrilled to do so. Observers witnessed the defendants, greeting, hugging and encouraging one another. One of the defendants, Asefa Habteweld was not present due to poor health.

Urgent appeal from ETP: Support the free press!!

The government's persecution of the free press has caused Ethiopian journalist to flee their country in fear for their safety. Many of these journalists are currently in dire need of assistance. Without any income, they are forced to rely on your support. It is important to remember these courageous individuals who held the government of Meles Zenawi accountable for its actions, are public servants and they deserve better. We are calling on all Ethiopians able to help not to waste any time in rushing to their aid. Please contact to find out how you can help.

Wasihun Melese and Anteneh Getnet released on bail!

(Press release form Amnesty International)

Amnesty International welcomes the release on bail of Wasihun Melese and Anteneh Getnet on 5 October. They have not been charged with any offence. After a first court hearing on 25 September, their case was adjourned until 9 October and the police given an additional two weeks to bring charges against them.

Wasihun Melese is a teacher at Addis Ketema High School in Addis Ababa and a prominent activist in the Addis Ababa branch of the ETA. He is an elected member of the ETA's National Executive Committee. Anteneh Getnet is also a teacher and ETA activist who had been in the ETA's office when he was arrested by three plainclothes police officers on 23 September. Anteneh Getnet was previously abducted and beaten in May 2006, allegedly by members of the security forces. He is still suffering from injuries sustained when he was beaten.

The ETA, which is affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and Education International (EI), is the oldest trade union in Ethiopia, to which half a million teachers in primary, secondary and higher educational institutions belong. The ETA has been critical of government education policies and has been subject to numerous government attempts to close it through court cases which are continuing. There have been attempts by the Ethiopian authorities to replace it with a pro-government union created with the same name.

The ETA issued statements criticizing the government in connection with the post-election crisis in mid-2005. In two incidents in June and November 2005, over 80 opposition party supporters were killed by the security forces, and seven police officers were also killed by demonstrators protesting at alleged election fraud in the May 2005 elections.

Thank you very much for your work on this appeal, which Amnesty International believes contributed greatly to the release on bail of Wasihun Melese and Anteneh Getnet. Amnesty International will continue to monitor their situation but no further appeals are required at present.

Rising Tensions: Security situation in the Southwest deteriorates

(EthioTribune) Oromia: According to sources the security situation in Ilu Abbaabor, as well the adjacent regions of Gomma and Jimma have deteriorated. The carnage has caused significant lose of life and damage to property. Local residents blame EPRDF cadres for fanning the incidents. Cadres are being pressured by the higher-ups to shore up sagging support for the regime. However, their clumsy effort at it is instead leading to more opposition against EPRDF, which the local police is finding increasingly difficult to suppress. Although there are reports of many casualties, EthioTribune could confirm, thus far, four deaths in Callo alone. Their names are Zenu A/Rago, Tamam A/Rago, Jihad A/Cabsa and his young wife, Sinde. The wounded are currently being treated in Jimma.(More...)

Moscow makes record arms sale to Third World countries:
Ethiopia one of Russia’s biggest customers

MOSCOW: Russia is increasingly supplying military arms and weaponry to developing countries in what defence analysts describe as the largest post-Soviet export deals.

(Picture – African child fighter with Russian made AK 47) A significant rise in revenues from exports is expected by the end of the year for the first time after the collapse of the Soviet empire, Uzhanov added, without giving concrete figures. An authoritative source told IPS that Rosoboronexport has a new portfolio of orders exceeding $17 billion this year alone.

Among the African nations, Algeria, Ethiopia and South Africa have had the largest military deals with Russia. These deals have delivered large numbers of Russian air defence systems, fighters, small arms and ships this year.(More...)

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