[dehai-news] (EMF) Ethiopian govt bans UDJ demonstration in Addis Ababa

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From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (eritrea.lave@comhem.se)
Date: Tue Mar 03 2009 - 11:38:14 EST

TPLF bans UDJ demonstration in Addis Ababa
Written on Monday, March 2nd, 2009 at 4:57 pm by ethioforum
By Kirubel Tadesse (2 March 2009) capital – Meles Zenawi’s Communication
Affairs Office, Bereket Simon, says it is impossible to hold a public
rally on Birtukan’s case, as it is a matter already dealt with by the
Opposition party, Unity for Democracy (UDJ) has set a date to stage a
public demonstration in Addis Ababa to protest at what it calls clear
and widespread violations of the constitution, including the re-arrest
of its chairperson, Birtukan Midekssa.
Established by the leadership of the former Coalition for Unity and
Democracy Party (CUDP), UDJ obtained its accreditation to operate on a
national level back in August 2008.
In an effort to unite former CUDP supporters currently scattered across
various groups at home and in the Diaspora, the UDJ was aggressively
operating across the nation, and in some European and American cities
where Ethiopian opposition supporters live in great numbers.
The party issued a statement accusing the national and regional
government of being responsible for widespread illegal activities,
ranging from forced office closures to harassments and several arrests.
In a press conference held last Thursday, UDJ’s acting chairperson,
Engineer Gizachew Shiferaw, commented to Capital that attempts to
resolve the violations by discussions with regional and relevant
authorities were unfruitful: “Most of us [in leadership] went personally
to a number of regional heads’ offices to bring the intimidations and
illegal office closures to their attention. As we go to the kebele
level, things get worse.”
He recounted testimonies from four regional party members from Amhara,
Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ State to
illustrate the claimed intimidation.
The party’s three page communiqué issued refers to its youth, media and
communications sub committee’s scheduled literature evening to
demonstrate the extent of the serious setbacks the party is enduring.
“After submitting a letter of notification to the relevant authority, we
were ordered to postpone because of the ongoing African Union Summit and
we accepted. A notification of our new date was sent again, but it has
been several days and we have had no response.”
“That is preventing us from exercising our democratic rights,” the UDJ
statement reads.
The statement adds that by law the party could hold the meeting, due to
the authority’s delay in responding. However, it says the police have
recently broken up such events, leading the party to wait for the
official go-ahead.
According to the party’s statement, the re-arrest of Birtukan also falls
under the trend of violations of the law.
“Prior to the public demonstration, scheduled tentatively in a month’s
time, we will organize a symposium where various papers will be
presented to make the public aware of the current violations of the law
and to see the legal implications of the acts,” UDJ vice-chair Dr. Hailu
Araya explained to Capital. “We won’t hold the demonstration to protest
the court’s life sentence, rather the step the government took to revoke
the pardon and the violation of human rights observed during the
arrest,” Hailu added.
UDJ have made Birtukan’s re-arrest a priority, and have set up four
committees to have its chairperson released from prison. Birtukan, who
received a life sentence from the federal court in 2006, was, along with
most of the former CUD leadership, released just before the Ethiopian
The Government says due to her failure to retract her denial of asking
for a pardon, her pardon was revoked and she is now serving a life
sentence as of December 29, 2008. However, UDJ says this is illegal.
Head of Government Communication Affairs Office, Minister Bereket Simon,
explains that holding or conducting demonstrations is a right protected
by law.
“Apart from Birtukan’s case, they can hold a demonstration based on the
allegations, or what they feel has to be corrected, that is within their
legal right,” Bereket explained to Capital, “if they mix up these with
Birtukan’s case, it will be wrong to hold demonstration because it is a
judicially settled matter. And I don’t think it is proper to try to
subvert judicial decisions from being implemented by terrorizing
implementing bodies.”
Just a few days later after Birutkan’s re-arrest, the Justice Ministry
issued a statement cautioning all not to try to influence independent
judiciary. As to how the government will react if UDJ decides to hold
the public demonstration despite this caution, Minister Bereket said it
will be impossible to make Birtukan’s case the focus of the rally.

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