By Tamiru Tsige
Seven Ethiopian and two Eritrean nationals this week were charged with espionage on Ethiopia’s defence force stationed at the Ethio-Eritrean border.
The charge filed at the nineteenth criminal bench of the Federal High Court alleges that the defendants maintained clandestine communications with the Eritrean Intelligence Agency.
The suspects are accused of spying on the current status of Ethiopia’s defence force. Federal prosecutors also accused one of the suspects of prohibited traffic of arms including Kalashnikovs and ammunitions and grenades.
The charge alleges that the suspects have been carrying out the espionage from October 2011 to May 2013.
The charge accuses the suspects of transferring information regarding the location and number of the Ethiopian defence force as well as reinforcements in exchange for payments.
The suspects are also accused of spying on refugee camps where Eritreans fleeing their country are taking shelter and the operation of Eritrean opposition groups in these areas.
Following a two year border conflict that ended in 2000, Ethiopia and Eritrea find themselves entangled in a no-peace no-war situation. With no peace process to normalize relations in sight, Ethiopia continuously accuse Eritrea of attempting to destabilize its internal stability through armed insurgents operating in the region, including Al Shabaab, an Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group.
Ethiopia’s continued allegation led to the imposition of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council against Eritrea in 2009 which included arms embargo, travel bans on its leaders and freezing of assets of some of its leaders.
A recent UN refugee agency report indicated a sharp increase in the number of Eritrean youths fleeing to Ethiopia. More than 6,000 Eritreans had claimed asylum in Ethiopia over the past month, the report said.