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Ethiopia arrests five for plotting ‘terrorist’ acts

(AFP) ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopian authorities arrested four opposition members and one journalist suspected of plotting attacks on state security, the government said Thursday.

Prominent opposition leader Andualem Arage and journalist Eskinder Nega were among those arrested Wednesday, government spokesperson Shimeles Kemal said.

“The five were involved in staging a series of terrorist acts that would likely wreak havoc,” Shimeles told AFP.

He added that the suspects were connected to the outlawed group Ginbot 7, whose leader Berhanu Nega, a former mayor of Addis Ababa, lives in exile in the United States.

Andualem told reporters last week that the regime was tightening its grip on the opposition.

“So long as you are not part of the regime you will be labelled a terrorist,” said Andualem, the secretary general of opposition party Unity for Democracy and Justice.

“No one can trust them,” he added.

There has been a spate of similar arrests in recent weeks. Last month, 31 people suspected of involvement in subversive activities were detained.

Amnesty International said the recent arrests were a “deeply worrying trend.”

“The government is clearly using their authority to stifle the last remains of freedom of expression,” Amnesty’s Ethiopia researcher Claire Beston told AFP by phone from London.

“The government seems to react to the smallest seed of dissent which makes a mockery of the democratic process,” she added.

Shimeles vowed the government would continue arrests so long as suspected terrorists continue to plot attacks.

“If they continue to carry out their attacks the police shall take the maximum caution to prevent any probable damage,” he said.

Ginbot 7 is labelled a “terrorist” organisation under Ethiopian law. Its founder Berhanu was arrested in 2005 for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government and was sentenced to death in absentia in 2009.

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