Update: Ethiopia - Ongoing arbitrary detention of Omot Agwa Okwoy and fellow human rights defenders

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Front Line Defenders | 29 September 2015

Update: Ethiopia - Ongoing arbitrary detention of Omot Agwa Okwoy and fellow human rights defenders

Mr Omot Agwa Okwoy and his fellow human rights defenders Messrs Ashinie Astin and Jamal Oumar Hojele have been arbitrary detained for over six months since their arrest on 15 March 2015.

On 7 September 2015 they were charged under the anti-terrorism law. Their hearing was adjourned by the Lideta Division Criminal Section of the Federal High Court in Addis Ababa until 22 October 2015.

The human rights defenders work to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples and are land rights activists. Omot Agwa Okwoy is also a church leader in Ethiopia’s Gambela region. Jamal Oumar Hojele works for the Assosa Environmental Protection Association for the protection of the environment and the rights of those who live in the Benishangul-Gumuz region. Ashinie Astin is a member of Majangier, an ethnic indigenous minority from the Gambela region. He has been a strong voice advocating for the rights of this community, especially in relation to land rights, in the context of intensified mining activities by both international and domestic companies.

Following six months in detention, the human rights defenders appeared before the Federal High Court in Addis Ababa on 7 September 2015, where they were charged under the anti-terrorism law for allegedly planning to participate in a workshop which was linked to terrorist activities. Following the official charges, the human rights defenders were transferred to the Kulinto Prision in the Akaki area. Prior to that, they had been detained at Makelawi police station, where Omot Agwa Okwoy had been held in solitary confinement for three weeks during his detention.

The charges brought against the human rights defenders relate to a food security workshop that the they were due to attend in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2015. It is reported that the workshop was considered by the Ethiopian authorities to be linked to terrorist activities and Omot Agwa Okwoy, Ashinie Astin and Jamal Oumar Hojele were arrested by Ethiopian security agents at Addis Ababa airport, from where they were due to travel to Nairobi.

Front Line Defenders expresses its concern over the fabricated charges brought against the human rights defenders, who have spent over six months in arbitrary detention, and condemns the use of the anti-terrorism law by the Ethiopian authorities as a means of impeding human rights activities in the country.
Original source: Front Line Defenders
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