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News: OLF’s Colonel Gemechu Ayana taken away by security forces; PR says whereabouts of detained members unknown; chairman remains incommunicado

Colonel Gemechu Ayana, Senior OLF Official. Picture: Mo’AA TV

By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne 

Addis Abeba, May 19, 2021 – Thirteen people including OLF leader Colonel Gemechu Ayana were reportedly taken by security forces after the court ordered their release. The Federal High Court 3rd Anti-Terrorsim and Constitutional Bench acquitted 12 people who were charged with terrorism, according to the lawyer Tuli Bayisa.

Tuli recalled the sequence of events where families of the prisoners went to Kilinto federal prison with the release warrant. According to him, Nine of the prisoners were released after the paperwork which took ‘a long time to process’ while the remaining three of them remained in prison. The Nine prisoners were taken away by security forces which Tuli described as “wearing the uniform of the federal police and heavily armed”. Tuli further said, “The security forces took the prisoners into a car and fled the area,” adding, “We don’t know where they took them.” However, the deputy attorney general Fikadu Tsegaye told BBC Afaan Oromo that he has confirmed that Gemechu and the 12 other prisoners are not under the custody of the federal police commission. 

Gemechu is one of the OLF leaders who suffered arrests and re-arrests, being transferred to several detention camps in the process. His whereabouts remain unknown until the writing of this news. Lawyer Tuli as well as the interim public relations head of the OLF confirmed to Addis Standard the whereabouts of Colonel Gemechu is still unknown, a day after they were forcefully taken away. 

Similarly, the interim Public Relations head of the OLF, told Addis Standard that members of the party who are detained in towns of Oromia Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne were rounded up and taken to an unknown location over the weekend. Among them is the head of public relations of the OLF, Batte Urgessa who was detained in Burayu town since March 20, 2021. His wife Beza Haile told Addis Standard that Batte has not been at the detention center since Saturday, May 15, 2021. “They told us to ask the government.” she said, adding that she doesn’t know her husband’s whereabouts until today. Batte and his driver, also OLF member Wondosen Abdulkadir, were arrested by Burayu Police in Oromia Regional State while visiting colleagues detained at Burayu police station.

Batte remained under police custody despite being granted bail on April 1, 2021 where the police told his family that Batte is ‘facing other charges’ and refused to release him. The interim PR head of the party told Addis Standard that the party had notified both the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia  of Ethiopia (NEBE) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of the unlawful arrest of Batte and Wondesen via letters dated March 22, 2021. 

Meanwhile, the OLF announced on its official facebook page this evening that its chairman, Dawud Ibsa has been incommunicado since May 3, 2021. According to the announcement, Dawud is ‘cut from all sorts of connections’, since the day his house was raided and the security guards previously assigned by the government to protect him were also taken away. AS 

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