Ethiopia accused of denying visits to terrorism suspects

12/10/2011

The leadership member of Medrek [Ethiopian Federal Democratic Unity Forum, coalition of six opposition parties, popularly known as Medrek], Dr Negaso Gidada, has told The Reporter that Medrek was yet to receive a response to a letter it had written to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi asking for an end to the government’s harassment of citizens on the pretext of charges of terrorism. Medrek has been complaining over the arrest of a number of its members on charges of terrorism, describing the arrests as politically motivated, and sent a letter asking the government to stop the trend but it has not received a reply from the government. According to Dr Negaso, Medrek sent the letter to the prime minister not because it believed he was unaware of what was happening but out of the belief that as the country’s leader, he is responsible for government actions. Meanwhile, Dr Negaso said families of those arrested on charges of terrorism were not ! allowed to visit their loved ones. According to Dr Negaso, since visiting those UDJ [Unity for Democracy and Justice, Medrek member party] members Mr Andualem Arage, Mr Natnael Mekonen and Asamnew Berhanu, and other suspects is not allowed, the party is unable to know their situation. Noting that family members had no option but to visit the Maekelawi Investigations Centre [in Addis Ababa] and hand over foodstuffs meant for their loves ones to prison warders, Dr Negaso said the party was unable to get information about the suspects even from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission [EHRC] whose representatives had visited the suspects. “Family members just hand over the foodstuffs to the warders, but they cannot see the prisoners. So we are not even sure whether the foodstuffs reach the recipient,” said Dr Negaso. According to him, he discussed the issue with EHRC Commissioner Ambassador Truneh Zena last week, who promised to call a! nd explain to him about the suspects’ situation but is yet to do so. UDJ Vice-President Andualem Arage, [prominent journalist] Eskinder Nega and the other suspects will appear in court for the second time tomorrow.