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Groups Demand Release of Ethiopian Opposition Leader, Merera Gudina
Pro – democracy groups around the world are demanding the release of Ethiopian opposition leader, Merera Gudina who was arrested over a week ago and continues to be detained by authorities.
The World Movement for Democracy, which promotes democracy around the world, in an alert issued on Monday demanded Gudina’s release and expressed alarm at the Ethiopian government’s “escalating crackdown on dissent.”
The movement rallied democracy groups around the world to call on Addis Ababa to release the opposition leader and “to respect the human rights of its people”.
Gudina, a prominent scholar and leader of the of the Oromo Federalist Congress, OFC, was arrested at his home in Addis ababa on November 30, the same day he arrived the country from a foreign trip.
The deputy chairman of the OFC told Reuters that the politician “arrived in Addis Ababa on Wednesday morning from a trip to Brussels, where he met members of the European Parliament.”
He added, “Police arrested him in his house the same day in the evening. We haven’t been given reasons behind his arrest.”
On his trip to Belgium, Gudina testified before the European Parliament about human rights abuses in his country.
At the hearing on November 9, Gudina testified alongside Berhanu Nega, an exiled opposition figure and leader of Patriotic Ginbot7, G7, labeled a terrorist organisation by the government, and athlete Feyisa Lilesa, whose solidarity gesture at the 2016 Rio Olympics raised the profile of the protests in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region.
After almost a year of violent protests, the government declared a six-month state of emergency in October, which allows the authorities to restrict opposition activities and impose curfews.
Article 2 of the emergency laws, under which Gudina is being held, forbids communication by citizens with those the government terms “banned terrorist organisations and anti-peace groups”.
The state of emergency was declared in reaction to protests, which started among the Oromo, Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group region over a land issue but have spread to the Amhara, the country’s second largest ethnic group.
Ethiopia has a record of repression, particularly against the media and has jailed many journalists in controversial circumstances.
In April, 2014, in an apparent crackdown on the media, the government arrested nine journalists on allegations of working for foreign human rights groups and using social media to cause instability in the country.
While an international outcry followed the arrests, Getachew Reda, an adviser to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told Reuters that the journalists were arrested for criminal activity.
“These are not journalists. Their arrest has nothing to do with journalism, but with serious criminal activities,” he said.
“We don’t crack down on journalism or freedom of speech. But if someone tries to use his or her profession to engage in criminal activities, then there is a distinction there” Desalegn added.
Journalists and bloggers have also been arrested since the state of emergency took effect.
Lily Mengesha, an Ethiopian journalist described the state of emergency as a continuation of the government’s escalating attacks on media freedom and human rights in the country that “will not deliver needed stability.”