Ethiopian court today passed guilty verdicts on four prominent Muslim leaders, a journalist and another thirteen defendants.
The individuals have been in custody since late 2012, when the government decided to crack down on the protest movement.
Four of the convicts were in the leadership of the “Ethiopian Muslims Arbitration Committee” established when the protests began in late 2011.
Activists claim hundreds of thousands Muslims signed a petition empowering them as representatives – six of whom most are among today’s convicts. Government officials, however, question their representativeness and have been claiming radicalization motives to be behind the protests.
Soon afterwards, it spread across the country demanding new election for EIASC itself and objecting alleged imposition of the Ahbash Islamic sect, which the protestors deem heretic.
Government officials deny promoting Ahbash and insist Awolia should remain under EIASC. Though a new election for EIASC was held, its procedures failed to satisfy the protestors.
The defendants spent the last three years in custody defending charges of “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement, and attempt of terrorist acts.”
Abubeker Ahmed, Ahmedin Jebel, Yasin Nuru and Kamil Shemsu were prominent leaders of the movement. Yusuf Ahmed, editor of YeMuslimoch Guday magazine, was vocal supporter of the movement same as the rest of the defendants convicted today.
A clandestine leadership has been in charge of the protest movement, via a facebook page Dimtsachen Yisema, since then.
The Court convicted fourteen of the defendants citing the 2009 Anti-Terrorism proclamation‘s provision on “planning, preparation, conspiracy, incitement, and attempt of terrorist act”. The rest four were found guilty of participating in a terrorist undertaking.
The defendants made emotional speeches questioning the independence of the judges and warning about the national repercussion of the verdict.
Similarly, Dimtsachen Yisema issued a statement today claiming that:
“The verdict revealed that the government has no intention to seek reconciliation with the Muslim community. It indicates further that the government has a long-term plan to prevent the Muslims from claiming ownership of its country and keep it subjugated.”
The Court scheduled sentencing for August 3, 2015.