Ethiopia court sentences three university students to various terms in jail

Addis?Ababa?? The Federal High court 19th criminal bench?sentenced three university students to various jail terms. These students were arrested?during the first wave of Oromo Protests,?between April and May 2014. The protests began in opposition to the now shelved Addis Ababa Integrated Master Plan. Oromo students vigorously opposed the so called ‘master plan’ which targeted to uproot Oromo farmers from their ancestral land.

Six students, among hundreds?arrested at the time, were subsequently charged with violating various articles in Ethiopia?s sweeping Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP). Lenjissa Alemayehu, a third-year water engineering student at Jimma University, was acquitted by the court during the early days of the trial. The remaining five were charged for having connections with the Oromo Liberation Front, and for inciting violence.

The court?sentenced Adugna Kesso and Billisuma Damana to four years and five months in jail, while Teshale Bekele was sentenced to one year and two months, a time he already served in excess. Megersa Worku is acquitted?of all charges against him.

Even though prison police failed to bring Abebe Urgessa?to the court for his hearing the last two trials, the court still found him guilty of all charges against him. His sentencing is adjourned until November 28. Abebe is currently imprisoned at Showa Robit prison, around 200 km from the capital.

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Below is a Facebook post by an Oromo Activist posted.

Addunya Keesso?(Second Row in the picture)?and his story captures the fate of Oromo prisoners.?He did not have a lot of visitors. His mom and dad are old and his brother a farmer who could not afford to visit his brother.

After saving for a year, Adunya’s brother took a bus to the prison where Addunya was held. At the entrance of the prison, he was asked for ID. He showed what he has (a Qabalee ID). They told him it was expired. One can imagine the emotional surge he could be feeling when he was denie…d the right to visit his brother after a long journey.

The abject level of poverty, the fear that visitors will end up in the same prison has exacerbated the problem. It is this time we need to rely on friends inside Finfinne to visit these youngsters toiling in jails. Brining them change clothes, home cooked meal and books to read helps a lot. We can count on each other for this or our solidarity won’t mean anything.

Such is the life of Oromo prisoners. They don’t get visits from relatives or Samaritans, their court rooms are empty, helpless in a nation of 40 million Oromos. Even the social media activism forgets such individuals by focusing only on big shot prisoners.

Until we value one life, we will be focused on statistics and the dictators will keep grinding our sons and daughters. It will keep building its empire on our graves. Thanks to a former prisoner and brave soul who visited Addunya and his friends in prison and appeared in court. I am able to learn this story from that person

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