Ethiopia’s Oromo leader requests separate trial, bail hearing set for March 9
Dr Merera Gudina, leader of Ethiopia’s main opposition, the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), appeared in court for the first time since charges of terrorism were brought against him on February 23, 2017.
According to the Addis Standard news portal, the case was adjourned to March 9 after his charges were read to him. At the next date, the court is expected to decide on a bail request filed by his lawyers.
He was twice denied bail by the courts in the lead up to the terrorism charges that were levelled against him. At the time, prosecutors maintained that they needed time to gather evidence for charges.
The news portal further reports that the OFC leader also requested for a seperate trial aside from the two other persons charged with him.
He was charged with Jawar Mohammed, a popular Oromo activist and Executive Director of the Oromia Media network and opposition member Berhanu Nega. The two others were sentenced in absentia.
Gudina is accused of meeting anti-government elements during a European tour last year. He spoke at the European Parliament during his trip. He was arrested on December 1 after returning from Belgium.
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.’