by Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
Dr Merera Gudina, a leading opposition figure and Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), has denied charges of terrorist links the Ethiopian government accuses him of.
His lawyers said he (Gudina) vehemently denied any terrorism allegations whiles addressing the trial judge and said that he had spent his life teaching against the ideals of violence and terrorism.
An online media portal, the Addis Standard reports that the academician made his second court appearance on Thursday. Friends, family members, colleagues and diplomats who thronged the court for the hearing were kept out because the sitting was not open to the public.
The police were however granted a month to conclude their investigations of possible terrorism-related charges against him. The position of the police varies from that of the government which says he was arrested for flouting sections of the current state of emergency.
According to Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation of 2009, police investigating terrorism related offences can obtain from a court four months of each 28 days to remand and further investigate suspects.
Ethiopian security forces arrested the Gudina shortly after his arrival in the capital Addis Ababa on December 1 from Belgium. Together with other 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.’