Amnesty International demands:     Abiy gov’t to release lecturer Frew Bekele accused of terrorism in a book critical of the Prime Minister

21 Sep

Posted by The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

On 17 August, University lecturer Firew Bekele was arrested and charged under Ethiopia’s draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP). For the last decade, the ATP has been constantly used to suppress any form of dissent.

Firew Bekele is accused of writing a book that criticizes Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. Firew Bekele denies having written the book. He is a prisoner of conscience that should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Firew Bekele, a Marketing lecturer at Rift Valley University, was arrested outside his home. Before searching his home, the police read him a court order that stated he was suspected of writing and publishing a book entitled “Yetetlefe Tigil” (the Hijacked Struggle), which criticises politicians, security officials, business people and other individuals for having allegedly hijacked Ethiopia’s current political transition.

Amnesty International has found nothing in the book that refers to violence or incites it in any way. Firew Bekele agreed to having assisted the author with the book’s publication, but he vehemently denies having written the book. The book has been banned from stores, but it continues to be privately distributed around the country.

During the search, the police found Firew Bekele was in possession of a copy of the book. Following his arrest, Firew Bekele was first brought before the first instance court on 20 August and charged with incitement to terrorism under the current Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP). His hearing was twice postponed and was then remanded to police custody for 28 days on 27 August, as instructed under the ATP. Firew Bekele’s access to his lawyer has been hindered under ATP regulations, and his wife, parents and siblings were all denied access as he was being charged with terrorism.

His lawyer has told Amnesty that he is being interrogated to get him to confess to have authored the book or to share names of the author.

 

The PM, his record & the relapse

In 2016, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced reforms to address structural and systematic human rights issues and released thousands of prisoners who were serving sentences on politically motivated charges. Spurred by systemic human rights repression and economic and political marginalization, ethnic Amhara and Oromo youth in Ethiopia took to the streets in vast number and sustained manner until 2018. Many of the protestors were charged under the under the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP).

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration initiated an important reform agenda that has the potential to improve the Ethiopian human rights situation if effectively implemented. However, the current political climate in Ethiopia is a tense one, as priorities and loyalties are divided among different factions within the government coalition. The Prime Minister’s party is the Oromo Democratic Party, and many Ethiopians saw the Prime Minister’s appointment to the position as significant for the Oromo ethnic group as he is the first Oromo leader for Ethiopia in its modern history.

While there have been important steps taken towards reforming draconian legislation that was used for decades to suppress criticism and dissent, the ATP has yet to be reformed and the older version of the ATP continues to be used to charge individuals in a wide variety of contexts, many of whom are vocal dissenters of the current federal government.

The book, የተጠለፈ ትግል (the Hijacked Struggle), discusses the growing rift between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the rest of his party, the Oromo Democratic Party, and accuses the Prime Minister of not only hijacking the Oromo struggle but neglecting the demands of the Oromo protesters.

Amnesty International has found nothing in the book that refers to violence or incites it in any way.

 

 

/Amnesty International

Book’s image added by TEO

 

 

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