Bail denied for activists arrested during on women run
An Ethiopian court Friday began considering whether to prolong the detention of ten activists and members of the semayawi, or Blue Party jailed on charges of unauthorized protest after they chanted slogans during the Great Ethiopia Run last Sunday. The federal first instance Yeka district court on Friday morning opened a hearing into the activists, seven of them women, who launched a protest on the 11th edition of the annual women run, on Sunday 9 March to demand the release of jailed journalists and politicians. The court rejected a request for bail for the activists who have been held in custody for six days.
Police said protesters did not have a permit to demonstrate and and confirmed that arrests had been made.
During the court appearance, the activists reported harassment and intimidation from security forces at the police custody they were being held at. They said security forces would come and interrogate them at night times on their political views and on why they belonged to a ‘terrorist organization’, they told the court.
Police asked for another seven days to carry out investigations, saying the suspects should not be released because they were deemed a flight risk. The court accorded the police four days for further investigation.
The Blue Party is pushing for a “transition” from the only party Ethiopia has known for the past twenty years. The party held the first major demonstration by a political party since 2005 in July 2013, when thousands of supporters marched in downtown Addis Ababa. They demanded the release of imprisoned politicians and journalists, an end to interference on religious affairs, action on rising food costs, unemployment, and corruption. The party tried to hold another demonstration this year on Sept.1, but the request was denied and about 100 party members were arrested and equipment confiscated. The Blue party organized another protest in November, outside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Addis Ababa to condemn the treatment of Ethiopian migrants and laborers in the Gulf country. But it was shut down by police before it began, leading to the arrests of several party members.
The arrests of the activists have prompted criticism among human rights groups, which for a long time have condemned Ethiopia for its ongoing crackdown targeting activists and opposition politicians.
(photo taken from the facebook page of Great Ethioan Run)