Merera Gudina is handcuffed and held in solitary confinement

By OPride

(OPride) —Top Oromo opposition leader, Merera Gudina, is being held in solitary confinement – in a dark room with no window – 24 hours a day, his lawyer Wondimu Ibsa said on Wednesday.

It was the first time anyone has seen the leader of Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) in 15 days.

“Merera came to the visitation area handcuffed,” Wondimu, who visited Merera at the notorious Maekelawi prison today along with another attorney appointed by OFC, told the Voice of America Afaan Oromo program. The only time Merera can leave the room is when the prison guards take him out for bathrooms, the lawyer said.

Merera was arrested on October 30 upon his return from a trip to Brussels where he spoke to members of the European parliament about Ethiopia’s state of emergency.

Ethiopia’s Communication Affairs Minister, Negeri Lencho, says his government has been providing Merera with protection as a prominent member of  a legal opposition party. Lencho acknowledged that Merera, who he said is being held for violating the terms of the state of emergency, is very well respected in the country.  “He met with terrorist organizations, groups that the Ethiopian parliament designated as terrorists,” Negeri told VOA Amharic, adding the court will decide whether to jail or release Merera once an investigation is completed.

Wondimu said Merera has been interrogated three times so far (without lawyers). And that he thinks authorities are likely to charge him both for terrorism and for breaking the country’s six-month long state of emergency provisions. The later change emanates from Merera being pictured, seated next to Oromo marathoner Feyisa Lilesa and leader of the opposition Patriotic Ginbot 7 Berhanu Nega at the EU parliament, where they all spoke.

Authorities have denied Merera family visitations since his arrest. Merera is diabetic. The family fears that the imprisonment will worsen and complicate his condition. Merera is a veteran politician and former member of parliament who is known for working with non-Oromo opposition groups across ethnic divides. This is why his arrest has angered Ethiopians of various political persuasions, according to Wondimu. Merera is also the Deputy Chairman of the main opposition coalition, Medrek.

For more than four decades, Merera has been crusading for democracy and respect for human rights and to see an Ethiopia that is home to all its citizens. He was unjustly imprisoned for 8 years during the communist Dergue regime.

His arrest came amid heightened crackdown on Oromo activists and dissidents. This has raised concerns about the future of Oromo opposition in Ethiopia. Six of Merera’s colleagues, including Deputy Chairman Bekele Gerba and Assistant General Secretary Dejene Xafa, have been jailed since December 2015 for allegedly inciting the Oromo protests. The party’s general secretary Bekele Nega has also been under unspoken house arrest. Most of the party’s rank-and-file, as well as district level officers, are also behind bars.

“This arrest is yet another example of increasing restrictions on independent voices in Ethiopia,” a U.S. State Department spokesman said on a December 1. “And, frankly, further reinforces our view that Ethiopia’s declared state of emergency is perhaps being used to silence dissent and deny the constitutionally protected rights of Ethiopia’s citizens.”

“That’s contrary…to the promises of political reform made by the Ethiopian Government when the state of emergency was announced, so we’re watching it very closely.”

A campaign by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, identifies Merera’s deputy Bekele Gerba as a political prisoner and calls for his release. This symbolic gesture has been welcomed by Oromos and other Ethiopians. Tom Malinowski, the undersecretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Affairs’ trip this week to Ethiopia provides a unique opportunity for the U.S. government to press Ethiopian authorities to release all political prisoners, including Bekele and Merera. Oromo-Americans are urging Malinowski to visit Merera and other jailed opposition leaders during his trip.

Ethiopia’s state of emergency declared on October 9 is making a bad situation worse. Towns and villages across Oromia remain militarized. Rampant arrests and disappearances have created unease and a growing sense of insecurity. A new report by Amnesty International released on December 13 documents “widespread, systematic and illegal” communication blackouts across Ethiopia, which includes the blocking of websites critical of those in power, shut down of mobile internet and social media since the protests started in Oromia in November 2015.

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Posted by on December 15, 2016. Filed under NEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

3 Responses to Merera Gudina is handcuffed and held in solitary confinement

  1. Girma

    December 15, 2016 at 4:52 PM

    We should have no illusion that Ferenj nations particularly the United States has any interest in justice in Ethiopia.
    The Woyane Tigres and Eritreans were set to dismantle Ethiopia from the very outset.If their western handlers did not write the handbook for them they were certainly conniving with the terrorist and secessionists.

    The future of our country lies in our hands. The ongoing struggle in the largely Amara and regions must be intensified and extended to cover our country.

    If 1,000 determined Ethiopians across the country could be organized to batter the enemy in guerrilla style ambushes, the morale of these barbaric, primitive and ugly aliens would be broken.

    We need to rely on our own resources. It is meaningless to waste time, energy and resources sending petitions to the same powers that groomed, armed and unleashed them to literally destroy the very beacon of pride in the entire black world,

  2. solomon

    December 15, 2016 at 5:15 PM

    There is no greater cause for the country’s two great giants to combine forces than today as they had always hitherto done.
    The most populous and centrally situated Amaras and Oromos were forefront in the struggle to preserve the sanctity of their country.

    Tigre always ahd the misfortune of breeding the most reviled soldiers of fortune.
    True to form, Tigres were attacking gallant Amara and Oromo patriots who were in Tigrai to free the ingrate Tigres. They ambushed Ethiopians of Oromo and Amara stock at the behest of their Italian paymaster.

    That was how the brilliant child-patriot Abichu, who commanded over 200 youngsters, literally came to scene and avenge ruthlessly.
    We need a handful of Abichus to send a shock wave down the spines of these treacherous Tigres.
    Merera embodies everything compromised and vile Tigres are incapable of being able to be.
    We can save our unjustly incarcerated patriots only by taking the right course of action- tormenting the enemy everywhere and anytime.

  3. GGGG

    December 16, 2016 at 1:25 PM

    Foolish people .now they are wobdering where t hide from the tigers .