US gov’t commission condemns the draconian prison sentencing of 18 Ethiopian Muslim leaders

9 Aug

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin – The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

On August 6, 2015, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) – a bipartisan U.S. federal government body dedicated to defending the universal right to freedom of religion or belief abroad – strongly denounced the convictions and sentencing by TPLF court of 18 Muslim leaders in Ethiopia.

These Ethiopian Muslims are sentenced to serve prison terms ranging from 7 to 22 years. To top it all, their sentences also include five more years each of the suspension of their social, political, economic and intellectual rights, totally denying them of any participation in societal activities.

Sentenced to 22 years are: Abubaker Ahmed, Ahmedin Jebel, Yasin Nuru and Kemil Shemsu. Five individuals, Bedru Hussein, Sabir Yirgu, Mohammed Abate, Abubaker Alemu, and Munir Hussein have been sentenced to 18 years. Also serving 15-year prison terms are Sheik Mekete Muhe, Ahmed Mustafa, Sheik Said Ali, Mubarek Adem and Khalid Ibrahim. Three persons – Murad Shekur, Nuru Turki Sheik Bahru Umer and Yusuf Getachew – would be serving seven-year terms.

All the above mentioned Ethiopian Muslims are charged under TPLF’s most controversial Anti-Terror Proclamation, which the majority members of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in May, July and September 2014 pointedly singled out as draconian during the country’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The Council members requested the TPLF regime to amend these law with a view to rendering it apolitical to strengthen the rule of law in the country.

Nonetheless, since this law is a tool in the TPLF regime to silence opposition and stamp out dissent, it informed the Council on September 19, 2014 of its refusal to comply with the request (A/HRC/27/14, para 158.51).

This is not the first time for the US Commission to be involved in this matter. On July 22, 2013, the first anniversary crackdown on Muslim protestors, the Commission called on the TPLF regime to release the 29 prisoners who were detained and put on trial for peacefully advocating for their religious freedom rights.

Already in 2012, USCIRF had expressed its “deep concern about the increasing deterioration of religious freedoms for Muslims in Ethiopia.”

One of the Friday rallies at the Nur Beni Mosque in Addis Ababa

One of the Friday rallies at the Nur Beni Mosque in Addis Ababa

Hereunder is the full text of the Commission’s press release of august 6, 2015:

    “WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) strongly decries the convictions and sentencing of 18 Muslim leaders in Ethiopia. They were charged under Ethiopia’s controversial Anti-Terror Proclamation and found guilty of plotting to institute an Islamic government. USCIRF has long advocated for the leaders’ release.

    “These individuals were peaceful advocates for religious freedom,” said USCIRF Chairman Dr. Robert P. George. “This trial was a continuation of the Ethiopian government’s use of the anti-terror law to stifle human rights advocacy and dissent.”

    The 18 were sentenced on August 3. Four defendants received 22-year prison sentences; the other 14 received sentences ranging from seven to 18 years. Among those sentenced were members of an Arbitration Committee selected by Muslim protestors to represent their concerns before the Ethiopian government, as well as journalists and other advocates.

    USCIRF calls on the U.S. government to speak out publicly against these sentences, as well as other cases in which human rights advocates face trumped-up charges.

    The Muslim leaders were arrested in July 2012, along with hundreds of other Muslims who were peacefully protesting against government interference in the Islamic community’s religious affairs. Protestors were reportedly beaten, with some witnesses alleging police use of tear gas and live ammunition. While most of those arrested were later released, 29 were charged on October 29, 2012 under the government’s Anti-Terror Proclamation. In December 2013, charges were dropped against 11 of the defendants.

    When USCIRF was in Ethiopia in December 2012, the delegation met with the defendants’ lawyers who reported that their clients had been tortured and mistreated in detention and denied full access to legal representation. In February of this year, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Right asked Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to investigate allegations of torture and other violations of due process rights.”


One Response to “US gov’t commission condemns the draconian prison sentencing of 18 Ethiopian Muslim leaders”


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