HRW says: Ethiopia should release leaders of Muslim protesters

(by William Davison)

Ethiopian authorities are engaged in a “brutal crackdown” against Muslims protesting what they say is state interference in religious affairs, Human Rights Watch said.

Since July 13, police have arrested and assaulted hundreds of Muslims at Anwar and Awalia mosques in the capital, Addis Ababa, and 17 leaders may be charged with crimes this week, the

New York-based advocacy group said in an e-mailed statement today. On Aug. 10, Muslims protests spread to regional towns in Ethiopia, including Shashemane, Harar, Jimma, and Dessie, U.S- based Radio Bilal reported.

“The Ethiopian government should address the grievances of its Muslim community through dialogue, not violence,” Ben Rawlence, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch, said

in a statement. “The security forces should be upholding the law, not breaking it.”

The government has said those arrested were involved in unrest and that the self-appointed leaders are extremists who want to create an Islamic state in multi-religious, secular Ethiopia. Around a third of Ethiopia’s 94 million people are Muslims, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Ethiopian authorities should free the Muslim leaders, Human Rights watch said.      Communications Minister Bereket Simon wasn’t immediately available for comment when contacted today and a call to the mobile-phone of State Minister of Communication Shimeles Kemal wasn’t answered.

Protesters have been campaigning for 10 months against what they say are government attempts to control the elections of Islamic leaders and to impose the moderate al-Ahbash sect of

Islam on the community via a training program. Thousands of worshipers have peacefully protested after Friday prayers at Anwar, the capital’s largest mosque, since authorities began breaking up the demonstrations.

Source: Bloomberg – Aug. 15, 2012. Originally titled “Ethiopia Should Free Muslim Leaders After Crackdown, HRW Say”.


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