Accused opposition leader formally charged

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An Ethiopian prosecutor on Thursday formally charged opposition leader Merera Gudina with an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order by violent means and trespassing the state of emergency rulings of the country. Dr. Merera, a fiery speaker and charismatic leader who runs a legally registered and peaceful organisation, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) has been held in jail for about four months. His arrest drew condemnation from international community as well as human rights groups.
Ethiopian government officials have been repeatedly accusing “elements” in Eritrea, Egypt and elsewhere of being behind a wave of violent protests over land grabs and human rights that have prompted the government to declare a state of emergency on October 2016.
Dr. Merera was formally charged with conspiracy to dismantle constitutional order, perpetuating chaos and terror, and inciting destruction of state and public properties.
Supporters say Dr. Merera has worked peacefully in Ethiopia as academician and opposition figure for over two decades and there appears to be no evidence to substantiate the charges against him and he had simply been made a ‘scapegoat” for the public anger against the regime.
Two other individuals were charged in absentia, the US-exiled Berhanu Nega who served two years in prison after accusing Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s regime of stealing the 2005 polls and another US-based Jawar Mohammed, executive director of the Oromia Media Network, and a social media activist. Jawar has mocked the charges of treason and terrorism, saying the ruling Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) “has finally put on its honor roll by charging me at its kangaroo court. The charge is said to include treason and terrorism.”
Berhanu,leader of the banned Ginbot 7 movement, had been already sentenced to death for plotting to assassinate government officials in 2009.
Anti-government protesters in Oromia, the country’s most populated region, attacked trucks, factories and farms, and also burned down government buildings last year. The attacks follow the deaths of hundreds of people on Oct. 2 at a cultural celebration.

Arefayné Fantahun
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