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URGENT ACTION

 

ETHIOPIA

December 26th  2007

 

Daniel Bekele,

 
 

Lawyer and policy manager of the Ethiopian office of ActionAid

and

Netsanet Demissie

  

Lawyer and director of NGO Organization for Social Justice in
condamned to

a two-and-a-half year jail sentence  by the Ethipian Federal High Court

   for "inciting violence and uprising against the government"

 

Released on 28 March 2008 after presidential pardon
after they signed a letter “acknowledging mistakes” committed in relation to the 2005 elections.
 

 

Source : AI AFR 25/027/2007 - UA 299/07

 

 

Human rights defenders Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie  received a two-and-a-half year jail sentence on December 26th  for inciting post-election violence in 2005, but will walk free within days as they have already served their prison time.

 

The Second Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court passed guilty verdict of "inciting violence and uprising against the government".

Their defence lawyer said, however, they would be freed in three days.

 

On decenber 24th, the Second Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court passed guilty verdict over two persons convicted of attempting to forcefully dismantle the constitutional order following the May 2005 national election  by a majority verdict of the Ethiopian Federal High Court after a trial of over two years. The presiding judge dissented from the guilty verdict passed by the other two judges.

 

They were acquitted of the main charge of committing “outrages against the Constitution”, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment or death. However, on the basis of certain witnessesstatements which were strongly contested by the defence, they were convicted on the lesser charge of “provocation and preparation” for the offence, which carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

 

Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie  have been held in prison since November 2005 and are the two remaining defendants in a high-profile trial of human rights defenders, opposition leaders and journalists, where all the other defendants have already been released. Some were acquitted in April 2007. Others pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms in July, but were swiftly pardoned as part of a negotiated agreement with the government.

 

On 22 November, the Ethiopian Federal High Court is due to hand down a judgement in the long-running trial of Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie on charges of committing "outrages against the Constitution".

 

Daniel Bekele is the policy manager of ActionAid in Ethiopia, and Netsanet Demissie is the founder and director of the Organization for Social Justice in Ethiopia. They were arrested in November 2005 during a period of mass arrests of those suspected of supporting the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD)

 

Both Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie denied any connection to the CUD, presented their defence and declined to plead guilty and apply for pardon. As a result, they potentially face life sentences. Amnesty International has been examining the fairness of the whole trial, and is deeply concerned that its observers were barred in July 2007. The Prime Minister had earlier said the trial would be open to international observers.

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The arrest and detention of Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie took place during major political unrest after the May 2005 elections. Opposition demonstrations in Addis Ababa in June and November 2005 protesting at alleged election fraud were violently dispersed and security forces shot dead 187 people. Six police officers were also killed, and there was considerable damage to property in the city.

In the aftermath of the demonstrations, tens of thousands of opposition CUD party members were detained without charge or trial; some for several months. In December 2005, 131 CUD leaders and officials, journalists and human rights defenders were placed on trial (several in their absence) for political offences punishable by death or life imprisonment. Twenty-eight defendants were freed in April 2007 when the judges ruled that they had no case to answer. In July 2007, 38 of the other defendants, who had refused to present a defence, were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment or long prison terms.

 On 20 July, these 38 were pardoned and released with the agreement of the Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, after they signed a letter apologizing for "mistakes" in the demonstrations. Other similar guilty pleas and pardons followed, leaving only Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie currently remaining in prison after concluding their defence.

 

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:
- calling on the Ethiopian authorities to release  immediately Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie  
- stating that Amnesty International believes them to be prisoners of conscience;

APPEALS TO:
Prime Minister
His Excellency Meles Zenawi, Office of the Prime Minister, PO Box 1031, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 1552020
Salutation: Your Excellency

Minister of Justice
Mr Assefa Kesito, Ministry of Justice, PO Box 1370, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 5517775
+251 11 5520874
Email: ministry-justice@telecom.net.et
Salutation: Dear Minister

COPIES TO:
Ethiopian Human Rights Commission
Ambassador Dr Kassa Gebreheywot, Chief Commissioner, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission,
PO Box 1165, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 618 0041
Email: hrcom@ethionet.et

 

 

PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY.

 

 

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