After being “closely” monitored, Debebe was detained yesterday by federal police and intelligence officials, Shimeles said in a phone interview today from Addis Ababa, the capital. He is being held at the Maekalawi prison and will be brought before court within 48 hours of his arrest, Shimeles said. The court may grant a further 28 days for investigation before charges are brought under the country’s anti-terror laws.
In 2005, Debebe was charged with treason following a disputed election and sentenced to life in prison, according to the state-owned Ethiopia Radio and Television Agency’s website. His request for a pardon was granted by the government, the agency said. Debebe’s latest arrest is on charges of “plotting to carry out a terrorist attack,” ERTA said.
Ginbot 7 is led by Berhanu Nega, who was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005. He was also imprisoned for plotting to overthrow the government and fled to the U.S. to set up the organization after being pardoned in 2007.
The group is banned because it has “openly declared” violence to achieve its objective and also “resorts to terror activity,” Shimeles said. Berhanu is a fugitive from a death sentence, he said.
Ginbot 7’s primary mission is for political authority to be “assumed through peaceful and democratic process based on the free will and choice of citizens of the country,” according to the group’s website.
Earlier this week, the government charged two Swedish reporters and two ethnic-Somali rebels with terror offences after they were detained in July in the restive Ogaden region. Five others, including three Ethiopian journalists, were also charged under the country’s anti-terror laws for involvement in a separate plot.
Debebe has acted in movies including the 1973 action film Shaft in Africa and Una Stagione all-Inferno in 1970, according to the Internet Movie Database.