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Lawmaker: 107 Ethiopian arrests unjustified

/ Source: The Associated Press

Ethiopia has detained 107 of its citizens over the past two months without charge, according to an opposition lawmaker who said Wednesday he believed the detainees were suspected of links to a southern insurgency.

Opposition lawmaker Bulcha Demeksa said he compiled the figure of those detained since July in Addis Ababa and southern Ethiopia from reports from family members.

Ethiopian law provides that anyone arrested should appear in court within 48 hours and be charged.

Federal police officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday and repeated calls to other government officials went unanswered.

Bulcha said his total of 107 included three staff members of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council in Nekemte, 137 miles west of the capital, that the council said were arrested on Aug. 23 and had not been taken to court since.

Hiwot Emishaw, an official of the group, said, "They were allegedly arrested for disseminating papers to incite violence. Our organization is saying they have not been engaged in such an act."

Suspected of ties to liberation front
Bulcha told The Associated Press he suspected the detainees have been held on suspicion of belonging to the Oromo Liberation Front, which has been fighting for greater autonomy in southern Ethiopia. One of the detainees, he said, was a 63-year-old man.

The Oromo make up a third of Ethiopia's 77 million people, and have been the center of dissent against the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front.

Bulcha, whose Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement party is a minority in parliament, said that he had complained to government officials, but has not received any response.

The Somali State Regional government said Wednesday that an aid agency's observations about human rights violations in eastern Ethiopia were "distorted."

On Tuesday, officials of Doctors Without Borders said they had seen Ethiopian soldiers chase women and children from wells in the desert and block civilians from getting medical care in the Ogaden region, where a rebellion is brewing.

"These distorted and unrealistic reports are certainly in violation of the code of ethics they are committed to in their line of duty as neutral bodies," the regional state government said in a statement posted on the Foreign Affairs Ministry Web site.