Ethiopia arrests UN worker for “terrorism”
By William Davison
April 5 (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia is prosecuting one of its nationals who works for the United Nations under the country’s anti-terrorism law for having links with a banned ethnic-Somali rebel group, Amnesty International said.
Abdirahman Sheik Hassan, a UN security officer, was arrested in July after he helped to negotiate the release of two World Food Programme workers abducted in Ethiopia’s Somali region, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher, Claire Beston, said yesterday in an e-mailed response to questions. The rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front freed the pair in June.
State Minister of Communications Shimeles Kemal said today in an interview in Addis Ababa, the capital, that he was unaware of the arrest of any UN workers under the law. Rights groups such as Amnesty have criticized the government for using the 2009 anti-terrorism law to suppress political dissent.
“The vague provisions of the law effectively prohibit any communication with a proscribed group, which could be used to criminalize legitimate behavior including that of journalists, or, as in this case, someone negotiating the release of hostages,” Beston said.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ethiopia, Eugene Owusu, did not respond today to calls and a text message to his mobile-phone seeking comment. The UN has 27 agencies operating in Ethiopia, according to its website. Ethiopia is one of the world’s largest recipients of development aid and received over $3 billion in 2008, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Swedish Journalists Jailed
Two Swedish journalists were sentenced in December to 11 years each for supporting the ONLF and entering the country illegally. A second UN worker, Yusuf Mohamed, has been in “arbitrary detention” in the Somali regional capital, Jijiga, since late 2010, according to Beston. “Allegedly this is because his brother is believed to be involved in the ONLF in Denmark,” she said.
The WFP employees went missing in the region, which borders Somalia, after an attack on their convoy in which one worker died and another was injured, according to the UN.
The government and the ONLF, which has been fighting for self-determination of the Ogaden area of the region since 1984,
accused each other of carrying out the armed ambush.
–Editors: Karl Maier, Antony Sguazzin