By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
August 3, 2015 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Ethiopian federal court on Monday passed lengthy jail terms for prominent Moslem leaders, a journalist and 13 human rights activists.
- An Ethiopian woman casts her vote at a polling station in Addis Ababa, on Sunday, May 15, 2005 (AP Photo)
Four of the convicts were leaders of the “Ethiopian Moslems Arbitration Committee” a group established by Moslem leaders and activists after the Moslems launched protests in 2011, accusing government of interference in Moslems’ affairs.
Last month, court passed guilty verdicts after they were tried under the controversial 2009 Anti-Terrorism law.
International right groups have repeatedly accused the Ethiopian government of using the Anti-Terrorism law as a tool to crack down on dissent, including Moslem voices.
The court said the 18 Moslems were convicted on charges of terrorism, public incitement and conspiracy to create an Islamic state, accusations all the defendants denied.
Accordingly, the Ethiopian federal high court fourth criminal bench today sentenced the defendants to prison terms ranging between seven to 22 years.
Ethiopian Moslems launched a movement in July 2011 in protest to what they argue was the government’s continued control of the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council.
The individuals have been in custody since 2012, when the government launched a crack down against Moslem protesters. The protests began in Awolia religious school, the country’s only Moslem college, but soon spread to across the states. They demanded Awolia to be independent from the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council (EIASC).
However, the Ethiopian government insists Awolia remains under EIASC, a move that fueled the protest further leading to the arrest of hundreds of Moslem protesters.
The horn of Africa’s nation had long been under fire from the international community over its human rights records.
Members of Ethiopian Moslems Arbitration Committee told Sudan Tribune the trial was politically motivated and aimed to silence long-standing grievances of Ethiopian Moslem. They said the court’s ruling was an indication that the government was not ready to reconcile with the Moslem population in the country.
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