Ethiopia: Courts continue handing down prison terms to political prisoners

ESAT News (January 11, 2018)

Ethiopian courts, seen by many as instruments of the oppressive regime, have continued handing down prison terms to dissidents who insist terrorism charges brought against them were politically motivated.

A court in Addis Ababa today sentenced thirty-three defendants to prison terms ranging from 15 to 18 years for allegedly being members and supporters of an opposition group, Patriotic Ginbot 7.

The same court yesterday sentenced Girum Asnake to 4 years in prison for allegedly being a member of the same opposition group.

News of recent sentencing by the regime courts, considered kangaroo courts by critics and rights watchdogs, came a week after the Prime Minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, promised to release political prisoners to bring what he called “national consensus” and “broaden the political space.”

The regime insists it is not holding any political prisoner in its jails, drawing further criticism from rights groups and the international community.

I a related news, the federal high court in Addis Ababa ruled that high officials of the regime, including the Prime Minister, should not be summoned to testify in a case involving Bekele Gerba and other officials of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).

The court earlier had summoned the officials to testify before the court.

Bekele Gerba and three other defendants who staged their protest on the decision inside the court were sentenced to additional 6 months for “contempt of court.” Three others who were charged on a separate case for being members of Patriotic Ginbot 7 were also given three months for protesting the court’s decision not to summon regime officials in the case involving OFC leaders.