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Ethiopia Opposition Demands Probe of Anti-Government Plots

By Peter Clottey
Washington, D.C
06 May 2009

Ethiopia's main opposition party is demanding an independent investigation into the arrest of politicians accused of plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government. The Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) contends that the allegation leading to the arrests is a pretext for eliminating potential candidates ahead of next year's general elections. The government contends that it was preparing the evidence well ahead of next week's expected day in court for the accused. The Meles government recently arrested a group of 40 people, describing them as belonging to a terror network plotting to topple the government.

OFDM opposition leader Bulcha Demeksa told VOA that there is need to authenticate Addis Ababa's accusations independently.

"The Oromo ethnic group has been at the receiving end of a lot of oppression, imprisonment, even torture massively. I have them in mind when I speak about imprisonment of politicians. Now this time, the suspected plotters as they said are not from the Oromo ethnic group, and these politicians were being arrested," Demeksa said.

He said the government claims could only be believed if substantiated by an independent investigation of the allegations.

"Without a third party confirmation or verification, I cannot accept this, based on my experience -- my experience for the last 17 or 18 years. I just don't accept all these on face value what (advisor to prime minister) Mr. Bereket Simon says," he objected.

Demeksa said the opposition stands in unison calling for a thorough investigation into the overthrow claims against the arrested coup plotters.

"We have seen thousands of statements in the past which were not based on facts. I didn't say this was not true. The processes are not genuine. The processes are not right. I only said this has to be verified by other than the communication agency of the government," Demeksa said.

He called on international bodies to look into Addis Ababa's claims.

"Maybe an association of international journalists or a joint group of foreign journalists. Let them come and talk to these people and ask them questions, and see if they are really criminals. We don't just accept what government says. Not only Ethiopia. It is all around the world that government claims many things, and these have to be verified," he said.

Demeksa said it is not clear without authentication that 40 people plotted to overthrow the administration, as the government claims.

How do we know it is based on facts? Because we have heard so many times in the case of the Oromo people, they have been arrested; they have been alleged to have done this, to have done that. How many thousands of Oromos have gone to jail and stayed in jail and suffered in jail? How do I know that this time it is true? So I am saying it has to be verified by, let's say, an international group of journalists," Demeksa said.

Ethiopia's opposition has often accused Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's administration of harassment. It claims its candidates were intimidated during local elections in April of last year, charges the government denies.

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