One of Sidama Media Network executives claim that the charges are intended for political intervention to stifle popular demands
August 12, 2019
Sidama Media Network executives appeared on Monday at the high court in Hawassa city, the seat of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Regional government, DW Amharic reported.
Getahun Deguye, executive director of Sidama Media network, his deputy Tariku Lemma and Belay Balguda who is a board member of the organization is among those who appeared in court.
Police suspected them of coordinating the July 18, 2018 violence in Hawassa city and the region, and of coordinating mob to topple “the regional and federal government and the constitutional order through violent means.”
Sidama zone police commander admitted about two weeks ago that at least 53 people are dead and more than 54 wounded due to the violence in Sidama and other small towns in the region as a result of the violence.
Property worth millions of Ethiopian birr was also destroyed and looted, according to the police report.
A police officer who is handling the investigation told the court, according to DW Amharic report, that police has been working on gathering information and discerning and registering private properties damaged during the violence.
As well, police claimed that it has been doing a preliminary investigation of suspects, and has released about 332 suspects whose participation in the violence was not “significant.”
The police also told the court that individuals who are giving information to help the investigation are receiving threats, as reported by DW Amharic, but it is unclear if it is an organized group or individuals who are allegedly threatening witnesses.
Suspects, on the other hand, told the court that they are arrested because of political intervention, and “the whole world knows about it.”
The intent of their arrest, the suspects claim, is to stifle demands raised by the people.
Suspects also accused some policemen of actions that violate their rights as they were coming from prison for their court appearance.
The court granted police four additional days to complete the investigation which means that the suspects will appear in court again on Friday this week.
Ethnic Sidama nationalists have been pushing for an ethnic statehood of their own.
A formal demand for a referendum was submitted to the National Election Board of Ethiopia in November of 2018 as confirmed by the board in a recent letter.
The letter stated that the Board has been preoccupying in reforming the institution and was unable to respond to the demand earlier than it did.
The letter from the board was released after radicalized ethnic Sidama nationalists (mostly youth group who are known as ejeto) made public their intent to declare ethnic Sidama statehood on their own without observing administrative and legal procedures.
On July 18, 2019, ethnic Sidama nationalists declared statehood unilaterally. In the ensuing days, radicalized groups targeted Ethiopians outside of ethnic Sidama.
The Federal government mobilized the defense force and deployed to the region after the law-enforcement forces from the region were unable to protect Ethiopians targeted by Sidama ethnic nationalists.
At least three Ethiopian Orthodox churches were burned to the group and some private properties including hotels were destroyed. Police have confirmed at least 53 deaths.
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