By William Davison
Nov. 11 (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia charged 24 people, including two politicians, with terrorism offenses, alleging they are working with the government of neighboring Eritrea, said State Minister for Communications Shimeles Kemal.
Journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition-party politicians Andualem Arage and Natnael Mekonnen were among those charged yesterday at the Federal High Court, accused of being members of the banned group, Ginbot 7, he said by phone from Addis Ababa, the capital.
“They have been charged with conspiracy to attack and dismantle the country’s political, social and constitutional institutions through terrorist attacks,” Shimeles said. The charges carry a maximum sentence of death under the Horn of Africa nation’s 2009 anti-terrorism law.
The suspects are accused of “high treason” by assisting the Eritrean government and some are to said to be working with Ethiopian Satellite Television, Shimeles said. The Amsterdam- based channel was “established to promote terrorist objectives,” the state minister said. Two exiled editors of Addis Neger newspaper face prosecution, Shimeles added.
Andualem and Natnael, members of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party who were arrested on Sept. 14, are accused of organizing meetings and youth in order to prepare for an “uprising,” said Negasso Gidada, a senior official of the party who was present in court. Preparing meetings and organizing youth members are part of UDJ’s normal political operations, he said by phone today.
Natnael told the court he had been tortured for his first 23 days in custody, including being beaten, tied up and made to stand naked, Negasso said. Shimeles denied the claim.
“The Ethiopian police force has treated them humanely, they have not been mistreated,” he said. Of those indicted, eight appeared in court and the rest are abroad, said Negasso. Another hearing is set for Nov. 15.