Bekele Gerba case dropped as Federal Government Amnesty Board looks into sentence for court contempt case
February 12, 2018
In the latest announcement of government’s “amnesty” of prisoners who are convicted and those whose cases are in court, the Federal prosecutor announced that it has dropped charges against Bekele Gerba, Secretary of Oromo Federalist Congress Party whose chairman, Merera Gudina, was in prison until a few weeks ago.
Bekele Gerba’s colleagues, Gurmesa Ayana, Addisu Bulala, Dejene Taffa, Getu Garuma, Tesfaye Liben and Beyene Ruda’s charges are also dropped according to Fana Broadcasting, pro-government media who claimed to have received briefs about the development from Federal prosecutor office.
It is to be remembered that Bekele and his colleges were sentenced to one year and six months in prison last month for court contempt after he and his colleges who appeared before court sang protest songs during court proceedings.
Fana’s report added that the cases are transferred to Federal Government Amnesty Board which will, in turn, present the cases to the president of Ethiopia, Mulatu Teshome, who is said to be from Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, member of the ruling coalition that has reinvented itself, according to many observers, to become increasingly assertive and check Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s unregulated power and excessive domination.
Seemingly, the Federal Amnesty Board will determine if Bekele Gerba and his colleagues’ sentence in connection with court contempt is to be an impediment to the amnesty or not. As part of the pledge to release political prisoners, Federal Prosecutor announced last week that it will release Andualem Arage, a politician, and Eskinder Nega, an award-winning journalist, and blogger, only to present them with, through prison administration, a false confession to be signed before they walk out of prison as “freemen.” The government wanted them to say that they are members of Ginbot 7, an outlawed opposition movement. They both, however, refused to sign the false confession. The following day same attempt was made in connection with Ethiopian Muslim committee members who were thrown into prison on trumped up charges of “religious fundamentalism” and they refused to sign it too.
Bekele Gerba became a member and executive committee and public relation of Oromo Federalist Movement after he joined in 2009.
He was first arrested in 2011 on alleged grounds of being a member of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a radical ethno-nationalist movement based abroad with a grassroots connection at home, and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Later, his sentence was reduced to less than four years.
When Oromo Federalist Movement and Oromo Federalist Congress merged in 2012, Bekele became deputy chairman.
Bekele was released in 2015 and visited the United States where he met with Ethiopians of diverse background and appeared on Ethiopian media outlets like Ethiopian Satellite Television to share his experience and reflect on the political situation in Ethiopia.
Three days of protest called by Ethiopian activists is underway in most parts of Oromo regions of Ethiopia and the protests are calling for the release of political prisoners including Bekele Gerba who is said to have developed a medical issue that is affecting his sight. With growing opposition protest, which at times boldly call for an end to TPLF region, it appears to be politically unaffordable for the regime in power not to release all political prisoners.
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