Ethiopia opposition politicians jailed for defying judges during trial

Leading Ethiopian opposition politician Bekele Gerba among a group of four persons jailed six-months by a federal High Court in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The four were found in contempt of court after remaining seated and refusing to speak to the judges during their trial. The other convicts aside Bekele Gerba are Dejene Tafa, Gurmessa Ayano and Addisu Bulala.

It is the second six-month sentence in as many months. They are said to have interrupted judicial processes. They have held that speaking to the judges earned them the earlier sentence hence the current posture.

The Addis Standard portal reports that final verdict on their substantive case of terrorism and criminal charges was postponed to March 7, 2018. A number of key members of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) were in court.

OFC leader, Merera Gudina, was released from jail after over 400 days. His multiple criminal charge was dropped by the government in what they said was a bid to forge ‘national cohesion.’

Ethiopia has been riled by a series of anti-government protests that started in 2015 in opposition to a government expansion plan of the capital. Activists saw it as a land grab scheme and held huge protests that later on took the form of calls for democratic rights and freedoms.

Between 2015 and now, the government have employed a series of interventions – violent clampdown leading to deaths and displacements and the imposition of a state of emergency from October 2016 – August 2017.

A recent reform program and closure of a notorious prison facility, the Maekelawi prisons, led to praise for the regime. The Federal government has so far released over 500 detainees whiles Oromia and Amhara states have also announced similar measures.

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