Ethiopia jails critics in crackdown after killings: activists

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AP

Ethiopia is using last month’s assassination of high-ranking officials as a pretext to arrest critics with no apparent links to the attacks, international and domestic rights activists said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office last year, has been praised for releasing political prisoners and embarking on sweeping reforms to loosen controls in long-authoritarian Ethiopia.

But activists fear after the killings, his government’s crackdown on journalists, critics and opposition supporters represents a return to repressive tactics used by past governments to stifle dissent.

“They’re resorting to violence,” journalist and former political prisoner Eskinder Nega told a press conference in the capital Addis Ababa.

“They’re resorting to strong-arm tactics.”

Five officials, including the national army chief and the president of the northern Amhara region, were killed in the June 22 attacks which the government has described to a regional coup attempt.

Officials said the following week more than 250 “suspects” had been arrested in connection with the killings.

‘Peaceful critics’ 

But Nega said Wednesday that “close to 1 000” had been arrested and most were peaceful critics of Abiy’s government. AFP was unable to independently verify this claim.

“We have prisoners of conscience now,” he said.

“The world should recognise that people are being locked up right now as political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, and the world should give us their support.”

A government spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nega’s press conference was disrupted by half a dozen young men brandishing Ethiopian flags who called him a liar and accused him of stoking tensions among ethnic groups.

But Amnesty International researcher Fisseha Tekle also told AFP Wednesday that the total number of those arrested was higher than the government has reported.

“The government is affirming that they’ve arrested 250 related to the coup, but much more have been arrested for their perceived political views and activities,” he said.

On Tuesday, Amnesty and the Committee to Protect Journalists issued statements warning of threats to the Ethiopian press.

Amnesty reported that two journalists had been arrested and charged under controversial anti-terrorism legislation “which was used by previous governments to bring trumped-up charges against its critics”.

Earlier this week, state-affiliated media quoted a defense ministry official saying that the ministry would pursue legal complaints against journalists suspected of defamation and spreading false information.

Since coming to power, Abiy has been praised for taking steps to improve the government’s dismal human rights record, including closing a detention facility known for torture. But analysts had warned authorities may revert to more repressive tactics after the killings.

2 Responses to Ethiopia jails critics in crackdown after killings: activists

  1. I think respected individuals such as Eskinder Nega are faling to realise the need to prioritize problems/issues. The nation is struggling to the danger of splite and the risk of civil war.

    Thus, first we need to secure rather save the nation Ethiopia. Tolerance, wisdom, forgiveness and farsightedness are paramount important to this end. In the mean time we need to clear the nation from the ill rather evil thoughts and enthusiasms of TPLF. It is becoming a a masked wolf. It is highly active in its demolish Ethiopia/Ethiopians agenda.

    Second step would be working on institutions, revising some national laws including the institution and preparing for election.

    I believe we need to form a transitional government for step 1 and step 2.

    But individuals such as Eskinder and others who are with good heart need to stop with activities which in any way disrupt the effort to wards saving Ethiopia and removing chronic enemies such as TPLF.

    Asmare
    July 12, 2019 at 5:38 am
    Reply

  2. I think respected individuals such as Eskinder Nega are failing to realise the need to prioritize problems/issues. The nation is struggling to win the danger of splite and the risk of civil war.

    Thus, first we need to secure rather save the nation Ethiopia. Tolerance, wisdom, forgiveness and farsightedness are paramount important to this end. In the mean time we need to clear the nation from the ill rather evil thoughts and enthusiasms of TPLF and the likes. It is becoming a a masked wolf. It is highly active in its demolish Ethiopia/Ethiopians agenda.

    Second step would be working on institutions, revising some national laws including the constitution and preparing for election.

    I believe we need to form a kins of transitional government for step 1 and step 2. Denouncing rather renaming the current EPRDF government would sufice. I think dr Abey is eying on this kind of routing.

    This needs the good will of the peace loving and also the solmen talking yet the otherwise doing individuals. Ther should not be excuse to public enemies and their sympathzers. That is to say justice need to be served.

    But individuals such as Eskinder and others who are with good heart need to stop with activities which in any way disrupt the effort to wards saving Ethiopia and removing chronic enemies such as TPLF.

    Asmare
    July 13, 2019 at 4:01 am
    Reply

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