Ethiopia charges prominent opposition figure Jawar Mohammed with terrorism

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As human rights organizations continue to warn that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is turning Ethiopia into a dictatorship, his administration on Saturday charged the country’s most prominent opposition figure, Jawar Mohammed, and 23 others with terrorism related offenses.

According to the attorney general’s office, Jawar and others were also charged with telecom fraud and several other offenses that could send them to prison for life if convicted. They would appear in court on Monday.

The Associated Press quoted Jawar’s lawyer, Tuli Bayissa as saying that the charges astonished the legal team, and that he couldn’t comment on them because he found out only by reading the official announcement on social media.

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“This is unethical. I haven’t heard anything like this,” he told the medium, adding that he expects to receive details at Monday’s court appearance.

UNITED STATES ANGER

Last August, two high profile American senators sent a letter to the U.S. State Department calling for the immediate release of Ethiopian opposition figure Jawar Mohammed, as crackdown widened under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.

The Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Mr. Abiy Ahmed arrives in Sochi to take part in the Russia–Africa Summit.
The Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Mr. Abiy Ahmed arrives in Sochi to take part in the Russia–Africa Summit.Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith urged the U.S. State Department to “take all appropriate actions” to ensure that Mr Jawar and fellow activist Misha Chiri “are treated humanely”.

They also called on the department to assist the pair to “exercise their full rights”.

Mr Jawar, who was previously exiled in the US where he established a media business in Minnesota, was detained in July by Ethiopian authorities after being linked to the murder of a policeman during violent protests following the killing of music star Hachalu Handessa in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Mr Jawar’s allies denied his involvement in the murder. “The recent political unrest and responsive actions taken by the Ethiopian government have threatened the progress that has been made,” the senators said in their letter.

In an opinion piece published this week in the Economist, Abiy Ahmed claimed that those opposing him were against the ‘transformation taking place’ in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country.

He said the “individuals and groups, disaffected by the transformations taking place, are using everything at their disposal to derail them. They are harvesting the seeds of inter-ethnic and inter-religious division and hatred.” He rejected “dangerous demagogues.”

He seemed to acknowledge human rights violations by security forces, although he also tried to absolve them of any blame, saying ‘law enforcement activities entail a risk of human rights violations and abuse.”

Human rights organizations have been warning against dictatorship in Ethiopia under a Prime Minister who won the Nobel Prize but is turning into an autocrat, postponing election, arresting protesters and detaining them for months without charges.

JOURNALISTS ALSO UNDER ATTACK

It’s not just politicians under attack in Ethiopia, journalists are also being hurt by the brutality of the government.

Last month, a Kenyan journalist who was arrested and detained in Ethiopia for two months before he was released after he contracted the deadly coronavirus indicated that the world may have celebrated changes in Ethiopia a little bit early by awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali.

“All I can say is that I think maybe the world celebrated a little bit too early on the perceived changes in Ethiopia,” Kenyan journalist Collins Juma Osemo, also known as Yassin Juma, said in an interview with Voice of America.

Juma told Voice of America while in quarantine as he prepared to return home that his experience shows the press in Ethiopia continues to face severe restrictions.

He said he was in Ethiopia on assignment for the U.K.-based Sky News as a producer. His own company, Horn24 Media, also planned to film a documentary for the Oromo Broadcasting Network (OBN), an Ethiopian government affiliate in the Oromia region.

However, in an ordeal that lasted more than two months, Juma was arrested and faced multiple charges, including inciting violence and plotting to kill senior Ethiopian officials.

Juma told VOA that he contracted the coronavirus while in a detention center in Addis Ababa and broke a rib during an altercation with men he believes were security personnel after he was released on bail.

HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent journalism advocacy group, reported on August 14 that the government of Abiy Ahmed Ali, a Nobel Peace Prize winning Prime Minister has ordered investigations into media organizations and arrested a total of 4,700 people.

Other human rights organizations have said the number of those arrested was above 9000.

Violent protests erupted in Ethiopia following the June 29 killing of popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa. Since then, Ethiopia has shut down the internet and accused some media outlets of inciting violence.

On August 5 and 6, 2020, security personnel in Ethiopia arrested three current and one former employee of the privately-owned Amhara Satellite Radio And Television (ASRAT), according to an August 10 statement from the media outlet on Facebook and the four individuals’ lawyer, Henok Aklilu, who spoke with CPJ via phone.

Journalists Belay Manaye and Mulugeta Anberbir, cameraperson Misgana Kefelegn, and former employee Yonatan Mulugeta were being held on allegations that they incited violence but have not been formally charged, according to the sources. 

The four appeared at the Federal First Instance Court in Addis Ababa on August 7, according to ASRAT’s statement. Henok told CPJ that police accused the journalists of inciting violence by producing reports showing the Amhara people, Ethiopia’s second-largest ethnic group, as oppressed and characterizing the Ethiopian government as incapable of protecting the Amhara people. He said police said the reporting was aired between November 22, 2019 and June 2020, though did not point to specific reports or the role of each accused individual in the reporting. 

VOA noted that “for years, rights groups and dissidents have raised concerns about the Ethiopian government’s use of anti-terrorism laws to target journalists”, adding that “violent unrest in the country, and concerns about the role of inflammatory news reports and social media posts in stoking violence, contributed to public support for the laws.”

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Simon Ateba
Simon Ateba
Based in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America, Simon leads a brilliant team of reporters, freelance journalists, analysts, researchers and contributors from around the world to run TODAY NEWS AFRICA as editor-in-chief. Simon Ateba's journalistic experience spans over 10 years and covers many beats, including business and investment, information technology, politics, diplomacy, human rights, science reporting and much more. Write him: simonateba@todaynewsafrica.com

6 COMMENTS

  1. It’s an obvious that Jawar Mohamed is jailed just because he’s more educated than Abiy Ahmed and he was standing againist Abiy’s ditatorial rule that’s going to ruin that country. That’s why Jawar & other Oromo Political leaders were seen as a terrorist by Abiy and being jailed. The only crime that let you called as “Terrorist” in Ethiopia is just being an Oromo.But the real terrorist is the one at the Palace calling him self a as a PM. It’s really sad seeing those people who fight for truth in jail& the one killing and arresting innocents in the Palace. Abiy is killing Oromo and so many other nations too. We demand real justice!
    Thankyou, Simon Ateba for being a voice for the oppressed ones!

  2. Jawar Mohammed is not terrorist.He is hero and voice of voiceless in Ethiopia and also across world. Ethiopia government is a terrorist.please free Jawar Mohammed and all oromo political prisoners Ethiopia government.

  3. Thank you. Now every thing is worse in Ethiopia. No protection of the civilians. The military deployed in Oromia region do what they want against innocent Oromo civilians. They kill, torture, rape with no responsibility. Abiy Ahmed and Neo-Nafxagna government completely turned to be dictator. There is no supremacy of law, courts of law including the law enforcement they are serving the politics but not justice. This day Oromo nation needs serious attention by the eyes of international human rights institutions, international medias, journals, press. you are doing well, thank you Simon Ateba.

  4. Reply to muktar Bashir Aden
    I really filled big sadness how Muktar Bashir Aden is a lair and fake like his frd Abiy. First of all, if you were normal, you must not start your name by small letter (muktar). Muktar Bashir Aden what are you saying is totally unhuman and you must be mentally ill like your coach Abiy Ahmed. How much are being paid to lie? How are going to Blame Simon Ateba while you are personally fake and addicted with hatred? I am from Addis too, and I don’t want to write things falsely like you. But my question to you (but I doubt if you are a healthy human being) is why humans lie? Why are you lying? Why Abiy is daily lying? Is Ethiopia healthy? Why innocent Oromos, Qimant, Wolaita etc are being killed? Why is a very sad crime in Addis?
    Anyway, ” Health is not the absence of illness”. You (Muktar ) and Abiy must go to Amanuel hospital, but still I wonder Abiy may pay for the doctor at Amanuel to say “Abiy is not mentally ill”. May God curse you or me by deciding who is lying and faking Ethiopia. Muktar = Shame on you !!!!!

  5. Abiy Ahmed said postponing the election was due to corona. That was never the case. Now in Ethiopia the number of corona victims is more than before. And even made tigrai regional election illegal. Now opposition leaders are arrested including jawar who has most of the people backing, corona can’t be a problem.
    It is now crystal clear that abiy killed well known oromo singer and activist hachalu hundessa, who spoke against the government on omn a week before he was assassinated just to arrest jawar Mohammed and other opposition party leaders do the election.
    Ladies and gentleman get to know ALLADIN the dictator of Ethiopia abiy Ahmed. If he wants corona shouldn’t be a problem. If he doesn’t want corona is a problem.
    Mind you +10000 oromos are in jail just because of their political views.
    This kind of dictatorship wasn’t even seen in previous government of Ethiopia.
    The man who brought the change using non violent resistance, jawar Mohammed charged terrorism.

  6. Mr Simon ateba it’s clear that your current Article Writings is systematically fake according to yours false justification so far currently we are in Ethiopia particularly the capital city of the country and what you indicated Articuled subject is not yet happens here in Ethiopia, for instance you have allready verified that yours current distination / location is in Washington DC how do you knew the dirty and confirmed false justification its normal just to criticize the Ethiopian prime minister Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali but yours current Article is 100% fake and the justified attempting is so less reliable observations therefore it seems that you’ re paid to criticize the Ethiopian Prime minister he excellence Dr Abiy You are not neither Human rights nor amynest international I believe that you were a very strong professional journalist but it seems as you are dignity less and singularistic and a man bribery adictor please stop such senseless attacks and stupidy of writing Articles without testimonial justification

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