Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ethiopia releases detained lawyer

A European Commission lawyer has told the BBC she has been charged with trying to leave Ethiopia illegally and attempting to incite violence.

Human rights activist Yalemzewd Bekele was released on bail after spending a week in custody after being caught trying to cross the border into Kenya.

Two European diplomats were expelled over the incident - accused of helping to smuggle her out of the country.

Ms Yalemzewd was said to be in good spirits following her release.

Amnesty International had previously raised fears that she would be tortured.
Ms Yalemzewd was arrested last Thursday. At the time, the ministry of immigration said she was wanted for what they described as serious crimes.

The two international staff expelled by the Ethiopian government over the incident, Bjorn Jonsson from Sweden and Enrico Sborgi from Italy - were deported without even having time to collect their passports.

The whereabouts of an Ethiopian man arrested in connection with the incident are not known.

Torture fears

Relations between the Ethiopian government and the European Union have been under pressure since the 2005 election.

The EU's development commissioner Luis Michel warned there would be repercussions.
Head of the EC delegation in Ethiopia Tim Clarke said he had seen Ms Bekele after her release and said they were delighted that she had been freed.

They said they believed Ms Bekele had been arrested in connection with the publication and distribution of a calendar of action for non-violent civil disobedience by the opposition party the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).

Following last year's disputed election, key members of the CUD are currently being tried on a number of charges including one of trying to overthrow the government through an armed rebellion.



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