On July 7, 2017, Chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Dr. Merera Gudina, will appear in court for a hearing. He has been held in prison for the past six months while awaiting trial. The World Movement for Democracy strongly urges the Ethiopian government to cease the harassment and detainment of this renowned human rights activist and drop all charges against him. We also call upon the international community to send a strong message to the Ethiopian government that we stand in solidarity with Dr. Gudina and are witnesses to his persecution.
Dr. Gudina has been detained since December 2016, for violating Ethiopia’s six-month state of emergency by associating with exiled opposition leaders at the European Parliament’s (EP) human rights hearing last fall. Ethiopia’s state of emergency, which suspends constitutionally-guaranteed rights and gives sweeping powers to the security sector, was declared on October 9, 2016, in response to ongoing anti-government protests in the Oromia and Amhara regions. Ethiopian journalist Lily Mengesha described the state of emergency as a continuation of the government's escalating attacks on media freedom and human rights that "will not deliver needed stability."
In November 2016, Dr. Gudina testified at the EP hearing alongside Dr. Berhanu Nega, an exiled opposition party leader, and athlete Feyisa Lilesa, whose solidarity gesture at the 2016 Rio Olympics raised awareness of the protests about human rights abuses in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region. Dr. Nega is a leader of the Patriotic Ginbot 7 (G7), an opposition political party that is considered a “terrorist organization” by Ethiopia’s ruling party. A picture of Dr. Gudina sitting between the two men at the EP hearing surfaced online, and was used by the Ethiopian government to propagate the lie that he was engaging with terrorists.
Since the initial charges were brought against him, the government moved to combine Dr. Gudina’s case with an absentia case against Jawar Mohammed, the head of the Oromia Media Network (OMN). Mohammed fled to the United States after his network was banned for their anti-government content in Ethiopia. Dr. Gudina’s lawyers are fighting the decision – which could result in a harsher sentence – and “claim any charges pressed against him should be separated” from those of OMN and ESAT.
Member of the EP and World Movement for Democracy Steering Committee Ana Gomes spoke out against Dr. Gudina’s imprisonment in a recent EP statement. We invite you to join Gomes and us in tweeting in support of Dr.Gudina’s human rights and urging the Ethiopian government to #SetThemFree!