The Federal High Court yesterday ruled that the prosecutor had presented enough evidence showing Professor Mesfin Woldemariam had instigated students to riot in April 2001 and ordered him to defend the case. If he is found guilty after the defense, he will serve long prison term.
Professor Mesfin and Brehanu Nega were arrested in April 2001 after Addis Ababa University students demonstrated, calling for more academic freedom. The public prosecutor charged them of forming illegal party; and instigating students for uprising. Professor Mesfin's Ethiopian Human Rights Council had organized a discussion on Academic rights for Addis Ababa University students prior to the demonstration. Both were speakers in the discussion. The prosecutor argued that they instigated violence by telling students to fight for their academic rights. Both have been appearing in court even since.
Brehanu Nega was cleared of both charges by the court. Professor Mesfin was told to defend the second charge. Professor Mesfin is famous for his advocacy of non-violence and individual rights.
Courts in Ethiopia have become government agents in stifling free speech in the country.
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