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News: Tigrayans repatriated from Saudi Arabia kept in detention, police unwilling to comment

Laissez-Passer of detained returnees from Saudi Arabia

By Mahlet fasil @MahletFasil 

Addis Abeba May 10, 2021 – Among the ethnic Tigryans who experienced arbitrary arrest are refugees who were repatriated from Saudi Arabia on April 5, 2021.  The returnees were jailed in Saudi Arabia and welcomed to Addis Ababa with yet another arrest.  They told Addis Standard, “We were detained without charge after being  arrested by Addis Abeba police later we were released on bail.” 

Elias (name changed for security reasons) told Addis Standard  “I was having coffee with my friends when they took me.” He detailed the events that occurred on April 10, 2021  where he and his friends who’d recently returned from Saudi Arabia after two years were having coffee in Mercato’s Teklehaimanot square in the capital Addis Abeba. “The police approached us and asked to see our IDs then we were taken to ‘amistegna’ police station.”  

According to Elias, the police then explained to them that the reason for their arrest was the violation of Covid-19 preventive measures. Elias continued describing the conditions of his arrest by recalling being taken to Gelan police station. “After they took us and we reached Gelan, it became clear that we were arrested because of our ethnic identity. All of the inmates were Tegaru.” 

Detention Center where Returnees alongside hundreds of other detainees are held located near Gelan Condominiums

The incident is similar to a report by Reuters which detailed the experiences of Tigryans who experienced ethnic profiling after conflict broke out in Tigray region in November last year.  The report included the testimonies of Tigrayan diplomats, professors, journalists, business people, academicians and military officers who were relieved of their duties or faced arbitrary arrests. Attorney General Gedion Timothewos admitted to Reuters about the presence of ethnic profiling in some state organizations.  “I would not rule out that innocent people might be caught up in this situation.”

According to Elias, there were over 500 ethnic Tigrayans at the detention center among which about 40 were Saudi repartiates. Some of them were residents of Addis Abeba while the rest were people who recently arrived from the Tigray region. “We were held in cold cells for a month until suddenly we were released on the guarantee of our ID cards.” Elias said, adding “I left hundreds of prisoners behind. Most of the prisoners don’t have family members in Addis Abeba and were daily laborers.”

Addis Standard contacted the spokesperson of the federal police commission Jelan Abdi who referred to Commander Fasika Fenta, the public relation director of Addis Abeba police commission who in turn declined to answer citing the unavailability of information regarding the arrests. AS

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