Ethiopia: teacher leader finally released
The Chairperson of EI member organisation, the Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA), has finally been released from police custody, after the court cleared him of the charges brought against him.
Kassahun Kebede, was found not guilty by the Ethiopian Federal High Court on 5 April. He was charged by the government for "misusing the association outside its objectives" and "inciting the public, its members and youths to violence".
The first charge is considered to be "an outrage against the Constitution or constitutional order", and can lead to between 3-25 years' imprisonment.
The second charge "entails serious crises against public security or life" and is punishable by life imprisonment or death.
Kebede was detained since 1 November 2005. The trial started on 2 May 2006, adjourned in September 2006, and only resumed on 30 March 2007. The sentence was passed on 5 April and he was freed before Easter.
Unfortunately, other leaders of the civil society, such as Daniel Bekelle of ActionAid Ethiopia and Netsanet Demissie of the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia, have still not been released and are currently preparing their defence.
Called the "Defendants' Trial" by Amnesty International, this trial involved a total of 111 defendants. 76 of them are imprisoned in the Kality Detention Centre, while the rest have been charged "in absentia" because they are in exile, such as ETA President Dr. Taye Woldesmiate.
The Ethiopian Teachers' Association has been facing persecution by the government for many years. Only recently were three ETA members released from prison, after 3 months of torture in police custody. EI issued an urgent action appeal to all member organisations and partners, whose show of solidarity was instrumental in securing their release.