Scholars At Risk Net Work: Release Scholar-Activist Bekele Gerba March 16, 2017Posted by OromianEconomist in #OromoProtests, Baqqalaa Garbaa.
Tags: #OromoProtests, Africa, Ethiopia, Obbo Baqqalaa Garbaa, Oromia, Oromo, Professor Bekele Gerba, Scholars at risk, Scholars At Risk Net Work
March 16, 2017 – Scholars at Risk (SAR) is concerned over the arrest and ongoing incommunicado detention of Professor Bekele Gerba, a foreign language professor at Addis Ababa University and the deputy chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), who is facing terrorism-related charges that apparently stem from his peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association.
SAR understands that on December 23, 2015, Ethiopian federal security forces arrested Professor Gerba, a prominent Oromo rights activist, after entering and searching his home. His arrest occurred against a backdrop of protests and intensifying clashes between the Ethiopian government and supporters of the rights of the Oromo minority, over the government’s renewed implementation of its “Addis Ababa Integrated Development Master Plan.” Sources suggest that Professor Gerba’s arrest was a reaction to the protests taking place across the Oromia region.
Upon his arrest, Professor Gerba’s family and witnesses were reportedly told that he would be taken to Maekalawi prison, where they could visit him in 24 hours. The day he was scheduled to appear in court, however, Professor Gerba allegedly disappeared and has since been held incommunicado. SAR understands that on April 22, 2016, an Ethiopian court brought terrorism-related charges against Professor Gerba and 21 others in connection with the protests. Prosecutors have since presented as evidence videos of a speech Professor Gerba gave at an August 2015 conference organized by the Oromo Studies Association and a December 2015 interview with a foreign-based, Ethiopian media outlet. SAR further understands that Professor Gerba has reported that he and his co-defendants have suffered ill-treatment during their detention.
SAR calls for emails, letters, and faxes respectfully urging the authorities to release and drop all charges against Professor Gerba; or, pending this, to ensure his well-being while in custody, including access to legal counsel and family, and to ensure that his case proceeds in a manner consistent with Ethiopia’s obligations under international law, in particular internationally recognized standards of due process, fair trial, and free expression.