'Treason', 'Genocide', - does these charges sound familiar?
Netsanet Demissie and Daniel Bekele are victims of TPLF/EPRDF government’s well orchestrated plan designed to send a chilling message to all Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) across Ethiopia that empowering seventy seven million Ethiopians to exercise their freedom of speech, to fight for their human rights and basic individual rights, all essential elements for an aspiring democratic society, will ultimately result in consequences and severe repercussions for the ruling regime. Their case is unprecedented given that both are not even members of any political party.
Over the last fifteen years the numbers of NGOs have been growing steadily in Ethiopia to roughly about 1,500 registered organizations as of 2007, according to the Ethiopian government’s own records. This number is not staggering by any standards when one looks at a country such as Kenya which has 10,000 registered NGO’ with the government. The relatively small numbers in Ethiopia are due to governmental bureaucracy and red tapes in acquiring permits. These relatively small number of NGOs have served and continue to serve crucial roles in various capacities from providing assistance in economic development, extending credits in a form of loans to poor farmers, assisting the most destitute, to fulfilling the very basic daily needs of many Ethiopian citizens.
Equally important also is the role other NGOs play in providing education to its citizens in understanding the importance of democracy, good governance, accountability, the importance of voting and participating in the political process. The work of many dedicated Ethiopians such as Netsanet and Daniel were on full display when 25 Million people come out to send a clear message to the government through peaceful means standing in line for 17 hours to cast their vote. Let me be very clear here that, these NGOs where specifically tasked to help many Ethiopians register to vote, provide education and assistance on how to cast their vote without endorsing any candidate which they did under the watchful eye of the government throughout the entire process.
What was equally amazing was the number of NGOs that insisted on being part of the election observation team despite the government’s deliberate tactics to intimidate, sabotage and delay in approving and providing the necessary permits to carry out their duties. TPLF/EPRDF made sure that these NGOs would not have adequate time to prepare to dispatch their observers to various polling stations by approving their licenses few hours before the polling stations opened. This was deliberately designed to stall them from carrying out their mission. Despite the TPLF/EPRDF’s callous and predictable behavior, many of the NGOs would not be deterred and continued to participate as election observers in many polling stations throughout Ethiopia working closely under the supervision of the International community and TPLF/EPRDF.
Ethiopians having full knowledge of their individual rights wanted change in leadership and rightfully so. For TPLF/EPRDF this also meant that it had to embark on a new campaign to dismantle and shock the NGO community for simply carrying out their mission. Knowing well this will require a cleverly orchestrated plan TPLF/EPRDF bunkered down to select the victims that will serve as a pawn in delivering their message to the NGO community of their displeasure with their work and the election outcome.
Clearly it’s well known and documented now that Netsanet and Daniel were not members of any political party which has been glaringly stated in the charges filed against them, but, are still accused of working with top CUD members to overthrow the government Netsanet and Daniel articulated their case to the world in the kangaroo court by doing a masterful piece in analyzing the criminal charge against them, weaknesses of the government’s bogus evidence, the strength of their defense according to Article 142/148 of the criminal procedure code.
What is more outrageous and laughable is that they have been charged with “treason” and “genocide” and trying to “overthrow the government with unconstitutional means.” The lead prosecutor couldn’t find a shred of evidence that would incriminate these individuals as stated in its bogus charges against them.
As an individual with seventeen years of experience and with a legal background, I think, I am somehow qualified to point out that the law in Ethiopia explicitly states that when an individual is charged with crimes such the charges filed against Netsanet and Daniel, if the prosecutor has no witnesses who can testify on its behalf, as is the case here, then the immediate disposition should be acquittal by the court (Article 141 of the Ethiopian criminal procedure). However, the kangaroo court insisted that Netsanet and Daniel continue to defend themselves, a clear and deliberate attempt to punish them by making an example of them to the rest of the NGO community.
On December 24 2007, the kangaroo court will hand down its verdict and we should not be surprised if they are found guilty. Netsanet and Daniel are, clearly, incidental victims of vengeance that are being used by the TPLF to punish the NGO community for executing its well publicized mission. We cannot and should not spend one more day in silence while they languish in prison. Let’s make sure 2008 the year that we will finally liberate these courageous citizens and let’s all pledge to redouble our effort so that the world knows of their fate. Now is the time for the Diaspora to rise and show the same commitment and resilience it has shown in securing the release of many unjustly incarcerated opposition party members.
It’s for all these reasons that I humbly ask you to contact your elected representative and demand that the TPLF/EPRDF release Netsanet Demissie and Daniel Bekele immediately and unconditionally
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