By Mahlet Fasil @mahletfasil
Addis Abeba, February 02/2021 – Defendants in Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba and others’ file have continued their protest with hunger for the sixth day. Families of the detainees at the federal Kality prison told Addis Standard that the detainees vowed to continue the hunger strike until their demands were met.
The defendants started the hunger strike on January 27 to protest against the arrest of some 80 supporters and family members from federal court premises during a key hearing the previous day. They demanded their release as well as respect for the right of their family members to attend the court hearing without police harassment mistreatment of their supporters and family members when they come to attend their hearing. In addition, the defendants also demanded the change of prison cell for Colonel Gemechu Ayana, Executive Council member the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), who remains in prison after he was repeatedly granted bail by a federal court. He once again appeared at the Federal High Court, Lideta Criminal Bench on 01 February but the hearing was postponed after prosecutors failed to present witnesses.
According to the families, on February 01, security forces at the Kality prison have prevented them from visiting their relatives, leading to an altercation and detention of some family members and defense lawyer Kadir Bulo. However, they were subsequently released the same day late in the afternoon.
Kadir Bulo told Addis standard that his clients also told him that Oromo political parties were facing stiff restrictions from contesting in Ethiopia’s upcoming elections.
Speaking about his own detention by the police Kadir said: “when I went to Kality prison to visit my clients I saw in front of the prison several supporters and family members who were dressed in yellow. The police arrested some of them.” He added that he was also detained while compiling list of supporters who were detained. “Although I told the police I was a defense lawyer representing the defendants, they told me it was no my job to compile the names and detained me for an hour before releasing me.”
Worried family members say the prisoners continued declining to accept food delivered to the prison twice a day.”
The protesting defendants were arrested following the government crackdown in the aftermath of the violence that gripped Ethiopia in the wake of the still unsolved June 29 assassination prominent Oromo artist Hachalu Hundessa, Jawar and 22 others remain in prison, facing criminal and terrorism charges at the moment. AS