Amnesty International

AI Index: AFR 25/WU 02/93 EXTERNAL

4 August 1993

ETHIOPIA: Arrests of Two Government Opponents and Court Witnesses

Amnesty International is concerned about the detention in Addis Ababa of two officials of the All-Amhara People's Organization (AAPO), an openly functioning opposition party. They are Professor Asrat WoldeYes, its president, and Sileshi Mulatu, its administrative officer. Seven supposed court witnesses against them are also detained.

The two AAPO leaders were detained on 19 July 1993 by a district court investigating police accusations against them, which they have denied. The police allege that they had planned to disturb the peace by promoting conflict between peoples at a meeting in the AAPO headquarters in late 1992. Seven farmers from Gojjam region arrested six weeks earlier, who were taken to court as witnesses but who reportedly failed to identify the two defendants, are also detained with them in the police Central Investigation Prison known as "Maikelawi". They are all allowed visits from relatives and appear to be treated well. Sileshi Mulatu was already in detention; he had been arrested on 8 July and held by a court order for 14 days for investigation, with no reason given. Professor Asrat WoldeYes had been detained overnight the week before. Their current detentions appear to be continuing indefinitely, though they have made bail application.

Their detention follows previous harassment and short-term arrests of AAPO officials. In January 1993 several AAPO officials were detained or summoned to court. All were released on bond, Sileshi Mulatu after being detained for two days and Professor Asrat WoldeYes when he presented himself to the court after several days in hiding in fear of his life. Professor Asrat was accused of inciting inter-communal violence in a rally speech in the town of Debre Berhan but he denied this and no charge was brought against him.

Professor Asrat WoldeYes, 65, had been Professor of surgery at Addis Ababa University until January 1993 when he and 40 other professors and lecturers were summarily dismissed by the government. This followed an incident on 4 January 1993 during which the security officers opened fire on university students. He graduated from Edinburgh University in Scotland and is Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) of Scotland and also of England, and a member of the British Medical Association, the International College of Surgeons (USA) and the east African Surgical Association.

Sileshi Mulatu, aged about 60 years, is a retired civil servant and former educationalist, with two masters' degrees, one from a British University.

The AAPO formed in 1992 to promote Amhara interests and the "unity of Ethiopia" (i.e., opposing the independence of Eritrea), has campaigned against detention and alleged killings by government troops on Amhara ethnic group or "nationality", which was previously the dominant group in Ethiopia.

Amnesty International is concerned that Professor Asrat WoldeYes and Sileshi Mulatu appear to have been detained for the peaceful expression of opinions critical of the government. It has called for them to be immediately and unconditionally released if there is no evidence that they have committed a recognizably criminal offense. It has urged the authorities also to release immediately the seven farmers detained supposedly as witnesses against them.

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