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1 dead, 7 injured in Ethiopian election protests – police

June 7, 2006


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, June 6, 2005 (AP) — Clashes between police and student demonstrators left one girl dead, seven people injured and hundreds arrested Monday in protests against disputed Ethiopian election results, a police statement said.

An Ethiopian policeman beating a university student using the butt of his assault rifle as another armed policeman moves in, in the capital of Addis Ababa on Monday, June 6, 2005. (AP).

Students at Addis Ababa University campuses had defied a government ban against demonstrations, staging the first public protest against the May 15 legislative elections. Police charged into crowds to grab protesters, beating some with batons.

In a statement read over state television and radio, the federal police didn’t give details about the death or injuries.

Pictures taken by an Associated Press photographer and others showed officers hitting students with the butts of assault rifles, and bloodstains on the ground.

An Associated Press photographer and reporter were also roughed up and detained for seven hours following the protests. They weren’t given an explanation for their detention, but police seized the photographer’s electronic film and he was ordered to return in three days.

The army’s special forces troops stood by in the capital, armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Riot police with tear gas and a water cannon also stood ready as regular police quelled the demonstration in Addis Ababa.

Police detained an estimated 500 protesters in Addis Ababa and arrested between 200 and 300 other protesters who were trying to keep students from entering the university, said Minister of Information Bereket Simon, who is also spokesman for the ruling Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Front.

Ethiopia’s state radio later reported that 370 students were arrested, and 50 “hooligans” were also detained for attempting to take advantage of the chaos. Another 150 students were arrested elsewhere in the country, a later statement said.

Demonstrations have been banned since election day, when the capital police were put under the control of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Meles’ party retained control of parliament according to official election results that haven’t yet been ratified, but opposition parties alleged there was widespread election fraud.

Clashes spread to other city campuses later Monday, and police fired tear gas at students at a teacher’s college. Female students could be heard screaming as riot police stormed into the campus.

The capital’s university campuses have approximately 20,000 students.

Bereket said the main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy was behind the protests.

Berhanu Nega, vice chairman of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, denied the charges, saying the party had urged students to hold off protests.

“Our worry is that the ruling party will use these protests as an excuse to crack down and resort to force,” Berhanu said.

The party was getting reports that protests also occurred in Awassa in southern Ethiopia and Gonder, in the north, Berhanu said.

Ethiopia’s political parties are challenging the results of 55% of the races, electoral chief Kemal Bedri said Monday.

Kemal said investigations would determine whether it was necessary to hold a repeat vote for the 299 disputed seats before July 8, when full, ratified results are expected to be released.

Provisional results show the ruling party has so far won 302 seats and its allies won 26.

Opposition parties won 194 seats in the 547-seat lower house of parliament.

The opposition and ruling parties have alleged that gunmen intimidated voters, people were forced to vote for certain parties, ballot boxes were stuffed or disappeared, and the number of ballots in some constituencies exceeded the number of registered voters.

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