The opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) vice president Andualem Aragie and other defendants denied terrorism charges earlier this week.
Andualem told the federal court that he became a member of UDJ to bring about change to the country’s history dominated by poverty and injustice through political and peaceful struggle. He denied charges of being involved in the outlawed Ginbot 7 movement. Ginbot 7 is based in the United States and vows to topple the federal government by ‘any means possible’.
“Knowing that the ruling party intelligence officers have been following me everywhere I go over the past three years, how brazen could I be to conspire to commit terrorism charges?” Andualem wondered.
He also denied the treason charge he faces. “I didn’t sell parts of Assab. I didn’t deny the country’s history nor did I say the flag is just a piece of garment,” said Andualem in his defense poking at some of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s infamous remarks he defended as misquotes.
In an article he sent to Fetehe an Amharic weekly the opposition leader said his fate is more in the hands of Meles than the federal court that has been hearing his case following his arrest back in September.
The opposition leader claimed he was beaten in his cell by an inmate, likely sent by authorities. The federal prison administration official present before the court on Monday said the case was a simple incident of two prisoners disagreeing.
Like Andualem, his party colleague Natenael Mekonnen and 22 other defendants deny being a member of Ginbot 7 and conspiring to overthrow the constitutional government.
The dissident blogger and journalist Eskinder Nega is among the defendants.
As the court continued to hear the defense’s case, Eskinder presented his on Wednesday. While he admitted writing critical articles about the government, he says he has never called or conspired for violence.
“History will judge you,” Eskinder cautioned the court after presenting his defense.
Other defendants also denied charges. One of them told the court that he has been under police custody and kept under a dark cell, for five months before he was presented to a court though the country’s constitution stipulates police to present a suspect within 48 hours.
Rights groups have repeatedly called on the Ethiopian government to drop the charges and release the defendants unconditionally.
If convicted both Andualem and Eskinder, who were imprisoned and later pardoned from life sentence in aftermath of the disputed 2005 polls, risk getting a death sentence.
The federal court is scheduled to continue hearing the defense’s case this week.