Anti-poverty campaigners on trial in Ethiopia

Actionaid
Daniel Bekele, a policy manager at ActionAid Ethiopia was arrested on November 1 2005 along with a close colleague Netsanet Demissie, the head of the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia, which works closely with ActionAid. Denied bail they have been charged with 'the crime of outrage against the Constitution and the constitutional order.' Their trial is adjourned until the court returns from vacation on October 5.
Daniel Bekele is policy manager at ActionAid Ethiopia. He is a lawyer with a masters degree from Oxford University.
During 2005 he was active in the Global Call to Action against Poverty, the worldwide movement of which Make Poverty History was a part.
2005 was a year of political conflict in Ethiopia. The opposition contested the result of the May 15 parliamentary election and there were some violent clashes. Violence flared up again in October. The authorities responded by arresting demonstrators, opposition political activists and their leaders, journalists and a number of key civil society figures.
Arrested
Daniel was arrested on 1 November. A colleague, Netsanet Demissie, handed himself in to the police when he heard they were searching for him. Netsanet is head of the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia, which works closely with ActionAid.
Both men were refused bail and have been in prison since November. Attempts to secure their release on bail, including an appeal to the Supreme Court, have so far been unsuccessful.
In January 2006 serious charges were laid against four organisations and 127 people, including Daniel and Netsanet. They were charged with 'the crime of outrage against the Constitution and the constitutional order'. Other defendants are facing charges of treason and attempted genocide.
Although most defendants do not recognise the court and have refused to plead, Daniel and Netsanet entered pleas of 'not guilty'. ActionAid is doing everything it can to support their defence. We hope to see them freed after a fair trial.
Trial begins with video evidence
During a short session of the Federal High Court on 22 March, the prosecution withdrew its charges against 18 people. Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demessie were not among them.
The court announced that it would reconvene on 2 May and sit continuously from then onwards.

Daniel and Netsanet were told that they will be allowed to hear the evidence given by witnesses, and then prepare their defence on those areas where they are implicated. Their lawyer will be allowed to cross-examine witnesses who refer to them.
On 8 May the Federal High Court reconvened. Since then, the court has met on most weekdays, and the prosecution has been presenting video evidence.
On 24 July the prosecution sought to introduce 900 pages of new documentary evidence, a move which was still being contested by defence lawyers when the court adjourned on 4 August for the two-month legal vacation. No witnesses have yet been called. The number and identity of witnesses are still unknown.

posted by Ethiounited Moderator at8:18 PM

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