A few days subsequent to his apprehension by security forces on Wednesday, October 18, 2023, near the Patriarchate of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Merigeta Berhanu Tekleyared appeared at the Arada criminal Bench of the Federal court on Saturdays. Merigeta Berhanu was reportedly tasked with documenting the proceedings during an upcoming meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Church.
Berhanu is being charged, based on a copy of the letter, which Ethiopian Media Services (EMS)shared, which accuses him of “receiving missions from extremist groups to pose a threat to the people and the government.”
The letter further alleges that the “suspect” used various social media platforms to disseminate messages with the intent of inciting violence among different ethnic and religious groups, encouraged the public “not to trust the government,” supported extremist groups, and portrayed the government as biased, as if it were taking action solely against one ethnic group.
As per EMS report, he was detained for an alleged “offense” dating back to 2015 (according to the Ethiopian Calendar). His lawyers have questioned the reasons for this. Berhanu was apprehended a few days before the commencement of the Holy Synod meeting scheduled for Monday, and his legal team also requested bail for his release so that he could fulfill his duties during the meeting, but no response was given.
Another ambiguous aspect of the charge is the lack of specificity regarding the identity of the “extremist” forces. Again, his lawyers have sought clarification to no avail.
His spouse, Eyerusalem Tesfaw, spoke to EMS about his court appearance. During the hearing, Berhanu stated that he was unfamiliar with the allegations made by the police during the court appearance.
Berhanu also revealed that he was interrogated twice, and the questions posed to him during these interrogations had no apparent connection to the charges filed in court. He mentioned that the interrogators asked him about the reasons for Abune Petros and Abune Abraham not relinquishing their positions of authority, as well as what the Holy Synod intended to do after its next meeting.
He also said that his interrogators informed him that he would be released once the ongoing meeting at the Patriarchate is concluded.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has been consistently targeted by both state and non-state entities in Ethiopia, particularly after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed power in 2018. Over the past year, the church has faced a significant crisis as a government-backed faction within the Holy Synod attempted to divide the church along ethnic lines, for which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed later emerged as a “mediator.”
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