By Mahlet Fasil
On January 19th an Ethiopian federal high court 14th criminal bench sentenced 16 Ethiopian Muslims to seven years each. Prosecutors allege that all the 16 defendants were involved in terrorist activities in the capital Addis Abeba and Wolqite, some 171 km west of the of Addis Abeba. Defendants include 1st defendant Elias Kedir, 2nd and 3rd defendants Tifiq Mohammed and Fayisel Argaw respectively.
The current sentencing of the 16 Muslims followed another sentencing in August last year of eighteen Ethiopian Muslims including four members of the Ethiopian Muslim arbitration committee and a journalist to a lengthy jail term between seven and 22 years. The eighteen Muslims were charged on counts that include attempted terrorism, conspiracy to establish an Islamic state, and public incitement.
Muslims in Ethiopia were protesting since 2011 against what many of them say were uncalled for interference by the government in the affairs of their religion. Ethiopian Muslims in many cities and towns have staged Friday sit-in-protests for nearly two years demanding restoration of the Awoliya College and Secondary School administration sacked by the government in Dec. 2011; a free and fair election without the interference of the government to replace members of the Islamic Supreme Council (Mejlis), again sacked by the government in 2011; and an end to the government’s attempt to publish and distribute books which carry new Islamic teaching called Al-Habesh. The government denies all accusations but claims Awoliya College and Secondary School, a highly regarded Islamic school based in Addis Abeba, has become a breeding ground for radicalism and Wahabism.