Ethiopia Arrests a Dozen Opposition Activists Over Flag Display

Ethiopian police arrested 12 opposition activists, including previously freed detainees, after they displayed a flag that differs from the official national banner.

Those arrested include four members of the opposition Blue Party, two journalists including Eskinder Nega, the former vice chairman of the Unity for Democracy and Justice Party Andualem Aragie, and three members of the Zone 9 blogging collective, according to the chairmen of the two opposition parties.

Ethiopian jounalist Eskinder Nega

Photographer: Yonas Tadesse/AFP via Getty Images

The arrests took place Sunday at a private house in Lebu on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa, Blue Party Chairman Yeshawas Assefa said by phone. About 70 activists had met separately earlier Sunday at a Blue Party lunch in the city to celebrate the recent release of prisoners from across Ethiopia, Yeshawas and UDJP Chairman Tigistu Awelu said.

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“The only thing they tell the prisoners, the comrades, is why are you using this flag?” Yeshawas said. “They said nobody can enter into the police station, and we will tell you after we investigate them.”

Ethiopia has been under emergency rule since mid-February, when Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn stepped down after failing to quell two years of sporadic anti-government protests in the country’s Oromia and Amhara regions. Hailemariam’s resignation followed pledges to free more than 7,000 detainees and implement political reforms.

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Opposition activists have previously displayed the national flag without a star as a sign of their anti-government stance, Yeshawas said. Attorney General Getachew Ambaye said earlier this month that the emergency measures prohibit displaying signs that “could incite violence.”

Information Minister Negeri Lencho didn’t respond to two calls and two text messages seeking comment.

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