Ethiopian opposition leader and former political prisoner Professor Bekele Gerba — who visited Washington, D.C. this past summer to raise human rights concerns with U.S. officials — has been arrested again, this time in connection with the massive student-led protests rocking Ethiopia’s Oromia region.
OFC chairman Merera Gudina told Reuters that police arrested Bekele on Thursday, December 24th along with the OFC’s Assistant Secretary Dejene Tafa. “They suspect that our party and some of our members are part of the protest movement, that we have been inciting the demonstrations,” Merera told Reuters. “We do not know when Bekele and Dejene will be released or be charged for anything.”
In 2011, after his meeting with researchers from Amnesty International, he was arrested on what Gerba believed were “trumped-up terrorism charges, often used in Ethiopia against political dissidents.” NPR states. “In court he made remarks that have been widely circulated in Ethiopia and beyond: “I am honored to learn that my non-violent struggles and humble sacrifices for the democratic and human rights of the Oromo people, to whom I was born without a wish on my part but due to the will of the Almighty, have been considered a crime and to be unjustly convicted.”
“Bekele Gerba was languishing in a high security Ethiopian jail, hearing the cries of fellow prisoners being beaten and tortured,” NPR noted in a recent profile of Bekele Gerba.
Addis Standard published a bio of Bekele Gerba in May 2015 highlighting that the father of four “graduated with a BA degree in foreign language and literature from the Addis Abeba University (AAU) and taught in Dembi Dolo and Nejo high schools in western Ethiopia..and went to Adama Teachers’ College, 98kms south of Addis Abeba, where he taught English and Afaan Oromo. Suspected of allegedly supporting students’ riot that took place a year before, Bekele was dismissed in 2005 by the college. He then came to Addis Abeba where he taught in two private universities for two years until he was employed in 2007 as a full time lecturer by the AUU where he continued teaching English. Bekele’s political career began in 2009 when he joined the opposition party, Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM), as a member of the executive committee and head of the public relations department. Bekele participated and lost in the 2010 parliamentary elections in which the ruling EPRDF claimed more than 99% of the seats in parliament.”
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