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Analysis: Ethiopian repression on corruption, human rights abuses. All you need to know


Mahlet Fasil and Yared Tsegaye

Addis Ababa, November 16, 2018 – More than 60 officials have been arrested so far, most of Ethiopia's intelligence and military services, which began with the arrest of 40 Friday, November 9, led to shocking revelations of prosecutor general Berhanu Tsegaye about serious violations of rights Ethiopian man's hands of security, police and intelligence units, as well as a network of corruption within the Metal Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC), a state-owned monopoly of companies run by army officials.

The Prosecutor General (AG) said that investigations in three separate cases were conducted by the police over the past five months. These are: investigations into the bombing of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's rally in Addis Ababa on June 23, 2018; investigations into serious human rights violations by security, intelligence and police units led by pre-Abiy Ahmed of the EPRDF; as well as investigations into massive corruption networks within METEC.

The following review outlines all three major investigations that are currently underway by the Attorney General.

June 23 bombed

Of the three, the bombing investigation in Addis Ababa, which killed two and injured more than 50, was already under way. Initially, the police investigated a total of 18 people in two counts. The top 10 people were being investigated suspected of negligence in connection with rally security tours; while the other eight were investigated suspected of direct involvement in the bombardment. Among the ten suspected negligent are former Addis Abeba deputy commissioner Kassa Girma and ten other police officers of varying degrees, many of whom, including the Commissioner's deputy, were granted bail rights by the federal court of first instance. Among the eight you suspect of direct involvement, one is Tesfaye Urgi, the former head of the anti-terrorism division of the National Intelligence and Security Service of Ethiopia (NISS), which was detained at a later date. But in the last week of September, police accused five of the eight, including Birhanu Jafar, Tilahun Getachew, Getu Girma, Bahiru Tolosa and Dessalegn Tesfaye, on terrorism. Despite the police accusations that they have found a bomb similar to the detonated bombardment at the Tesfaye Urgi house, prosecutors have so far failed to accuse them, causing judges to issue a final ultimatum to do so today, November 16th. During today's hearing, the judges rejected the preliminary objections presented by the defense team of the five suspects who then filed for innocence. And Tesfaye Urgie? The police brought it to court for what prosecutors expected to file for formal allegations. However, no charges have been filed, but the police said they now have a new file about it, whose nature is still unknown. The court suspended a new hearing for Monday, November 19th.

In a new trend, AG said Monday that the evidence shows the direct involvement of NISS's senior management. He refused to give more details of the allegations, but said the attack was a coordinated act which, at its center, was intended to create the impression that, as the Oromo ethnic allegations were made, their own constituency of the Oromos Prime Minister Abiy does not approve him as prime minister of the country.

However, many believe his assertion is that his fingers turned to Getachew Assefa, former president of NISS, who was dismissed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and replaced as head of the espionage espionage agency in June 2018. Getachew Assefa left then to live in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray regional state. In the last week of September, Getachew was elected as one of the nine members of the TPLF executive committee, a party that governs the Tigray regional state.

Abusive violations of human rights

In a press briefing, Prosecutor General Berhanu Tsegaye said the arrests were made after five months of investigations, which, underlining the complexity of the case, said he had extended beyond the ethnic, political and religious affiliations of the accused.

Unlike its reserved details of bombing suspects, AG has gone a long way to describe investigations into serious human rights violations. According to him, violations of rights that are all complicated by the terrible practice of torture by the security apparatus and state intelligence over those Ethiopians who were specifically jailed after being charged with terrorist offenses and members of the opposition political party .

Reducing accusations of torture, the Advocate General has pointed out that his investigations have found that this practice is not limited to prison cells, but also to seven illegal private detention institutions located in the capital of Addis Ababa.

AG's accusations are familiar stories for Ethiopians who went off the coast, especially after their release in the media in February this year thousands of prisoners of conscience. What came as a cold experience for many, however, was to hear the AG admitting publicly what every Ethiopian knows apart. He continued to describe the methods of torture, including but not limited to removing nails, inserting the pen on suspects, leaving suspects overnight bound to trees and naked electric shock, hanging water bottles on masculine genital organs, using pliers to pull male genital organs and to do with water.

The main suspects of these cold accusations are mostly attracted by the country's top espionage agency, the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS – both for federal and regional states) and penitentiary police. Top of the list is Yared Zerihun, former NISS Deputy Chief and General Commissioner of the Federal Police Commission, then a period that ran from April 19 to June 6, 2018. Yared was appointed to run federal police by Premier Abiy Ahmed during the first cabinet reshuffle in April, but resigned in June when he reported ill health. Although he was at the top of the list, Yared was detained on Thursday, November 15th, in what the police said was a hotel room in Dukem, 30km south of Addis Ababa as he tried to escape.

The number of suspects in this category is still 37. But AG assumed that this number could increase once those in flight and those who left the country are detained.

Massive corruption

The Metals & Engineering (MetEC) state-owned Corporation of Metals & Engineering (METEC), which was first established in 2010, has been at the center of massive corruption investigations and has taken major stakes in multi-billion dollar mega-owned projects in Ethiopia, including including the Ethiopian Dam Renaissance, ten sugar factories and a fertilizer mill. AG accused MeTEC officials of the fact that between 2012 and 2018 alone they made an international $ 37 billion ($ 2 billion) international purchase without a proper auction where the MeTEC and their network appeared as bigger players, had unprecedented delays.

This scandal includes the acquisition by MeTEC of two outdated ships from the Ethiopian shipping lines (now renamed Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise) and dozens of old planes that were used for private purposes among former officials, including his general general, Kinfe Dagnew. One of these planes has now disappeared, where it is supposed to be in Egypt.

The mismanagement of funds and corruption within MeTEC has been a target of a series of Wazema Radio independent reports, an Amharic podcast set up by exiled Ethiopian journalists in the weeks preceding the repression of the AG. However, a simultaneous two-hour documentary broadcast by state state media, including the national broadcaster, ETV, revealing some of the major evils in MeTEC, left the Ethiopians in shock, despite raising ethical questions on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.


The 63 suspects who were arrested on the weekend of November 9 appeared in the 10th federal court in the capital Addis Ababa for a court hearing on November 12, which lasted until 21:00 local time. The court has denied all suspects the right to bail and gave the police 14 days to prevent and investigate all.

The Monday trial was followed by dramatic arrests of senior officials from MeTEC and NISS, Major General Kinfe Dagnew and Yared Zerihun on November 13 and 15, respectively. Pre-trial hearing for M.G. Kinfe Dagnew and six others, including his brother Esayas Dagnew, director of Ethiopia's state monopoly operation until June 2018, when Fistum Yeshitila was dismissed, a former anchor of entertainment news at the national TV station ETV, took place in two days at the federal court 10th criminal bank. The judges refused M. Kinfe's request for public protectors after the police said they had proof of a deposit and recent cash withdrawal of a total value of 100,000. The police also argued that Major General Kinfe had a bank deposit at Awash Bank in the amount of EUR 5.335 billion, as well as a private and private car and therefore should not be eligible for public defense, the defendant. "I have nothing, no home without a car, no property, all I have is my own," said M. Kinfe. The court nevertheless allowed his brother Isayas Dagnew to obtain public defenders and postponed the next hearing until 19 November 2018.

Similarly, a pre-trial hearing before the Federal Court of 10th criminal session today, police accused Yared Zerihun of gross human rights abuses and corruption. Yared is also accused of collaborating with former NISS chief Getachew Assefa, now treated as a fugitive after issuing an arrest warrant.

The police accused Yared of ordering the prison police to torture prisoners such as their ants attack, pulling their genitalia with pliers, ordering the inadvertent suspension of prisoners, and forcing them travel to Eritrea, and bring weapons to be criminalized. The court suspended a hearing on November 20, when Yared is expected to bring his own defense lawyer.

For his part, Yared, who was detained yesterday, told the court that he had no contact with anyone outside the prison and is kept alone in a room. The police denied both & asked for another 14 days to cancel and investigate Yared. The court ruled on the police request on November 20th.

The arrests continued, and the latest high-ranking official who was arrested today was Colonel Assefa Yohannes, General Manager of the Defense Department at MeTEC. The police accused Colonel Assefa of resigning from a contract with more than $ 5. 7 million of the Tana Beles I sugar factory and an anonymous Chinese company. He is also accused of helping yet another unnamed company, who signed a $ 6.4 million contract with MeTEC, to disappear by more than $ 1.9 million in project money. Like the rest, the hearing of Colonel Assfa's president is postponed until Monday, November 19th. The Colonel told the court that he can not afford private defense attorneys and hence would like to have public defenders. The court will decide on his request to come Monday. AS

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