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Opposition Denies Links in Ethiopia’s Treason Trial

August 9, 2007

“Amnesty International considers CUD leaders prisoners of conscience who have not used or advocated violence and calls on the Ethiopian government to release them immediately and unconditionally.” – Amnesty International: May 16, 2006

In court on Monday, Ethiopian opposition officials stated that Daniel Bekele, 40, and Netsanet Demissie, 29, who are on trial for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government, were not part of their movement. These two individuals are the final defendants out of the original 131 charged in the ongoing treason trial.

Eng. Hailu Shawel, the chairman of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), refuted the allegations on Monday, stating that both men were not affiliated with his organization. He emphasized that the claims of them being CUD members were completely untrue, as he would have been aware of their membership if it were the case. Alongside Shawel, other senior CUD officials were also indicted in the trial, which was criticized by human rights organizations and donors who believed it was an effort to undermine the opposition following their significant progress in the 2005 elections.

According to a parliamentary inquiry, 199 civilians and police were killed, 800 people were wounded, and 30,000 were arrested following two episodes of violence after the disputed polls. However, on July 20, the government released them after making public a letter in which CUD leaders confessed their guilt and expressed remorse to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

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