Tuesday, October 27, 2020
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Ethiopia charges opposition figures with terrorism


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image copyrightReuters

image captionJawar Mohammed, an Oromo activist, is among those charged

Prominent opposition figures are among 24 people charged with terrorism in Ethiopia.

The charges were laid in connection with a wave of ethnic unrest which followed the killing of popular Oromo singer Hachalu Hundessa, leaving more than 150 people dead in late June.

The country’s attorney general said the group would appear in court on Monday.

Critics have accused Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of locking up those who oppose his government.

Jawar Mohammed – a media mogul turned opposition politician with a huge following among young people in Oromo – was among those charged. He was arrested in July as security forces cracked down. His lawyer dismissed the charges announced on Saturday as baseless.

A former ally of Mr Abiy, Mr Jawar has criticised the Nobel Prize winner for not having done enough to address the long-felt grievances of the Oromo people, the group which they both belong to.

In an opinion piece in this week’s Economist, Mr Abiy said people opposed to his reforms were harvesting the seeds of inter-ethnic and inter-religious division and hatred.

A number of other critics, some of whom are not in the country, were also named as being among the group of suspects.

According to a statement posted by the attorney general on social media, they have also been charged under telecom fraud and firearms laws.

Rights groups have criticised the fact that it has taken weeks for any charges to be brought against them.

media captionThe killing of Hachalu Hundessa laid bare the deep-seated ethnic animosity in Ethiopia.

At least 166 people died in the days which followed the killing of Hachalu, 34, back in June.

The father-of-two was seen as a hero in Oromia. His songs focused on the rights of the country’s Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and became anthems in a wave of protests that led to the downfall of the previous prime minister in 2018.

The motive remains unclear. Hachalu had said he had received death threats.

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