ADDIS ABABA — Ethiopian authorities charged 24 people with terrorism offenses Thursday including an opposition politician and a journalist, a government spokesman said.
“They are accused under the anti-terrorism law of being members of a terrorist network and abetting, aiding and supporting a terrorist group,” Shimeles Kemal told AFP.
Prominent opposition leader Andualem Arage and journalist Eskinder Nega were among those charged, the latest in a string of opposition supporters to be accused of plotting against the state.
They were arrested on September 14 on suspicion of being involved in “terrorist activities that would likely wreak havoc” added Shimeles.
The maximum sentence for supporting a terrorist group is 15 years, according to Ethiopia?s anti-terrorism legislation.
The suspects are accused of receiving support from neighbouring Eritrea to carry out attacks in Ethiopia, according to the charge sheet.
“They have received from the Eritrean government weapons and explosives for the purpose of carrying out terrorist activities in Ethiopia,” Shimeles said, reading from the court-issued document.
Eritrea and Ethiopia are long time foes, with both accusing each other of supporting proxy rebel forces to destabilise each other.
Eskinder and Andualem were arrested on September 14 on suspicion of being involved in “terrorist activities.”
Opposition member Berhane Nega, a former mayor of Addis Ababa currently living in exile in the United States, was also charged with terrorism.
“He is being charged in absentia,” Shimeles said.
But opposition member Negassa Gidada, a former president of Ethiopia, called the charges “laughable.”
“What they?ve tried to do is make the people shut their mouths. Unacceptable. Unacceptable,” he told AFP.
Ethiopia’s media is among the most repressed in Africa, according to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists, which calls the country?s anti-terrorism law “far-reaching.”
The watchdog reports six journalists have been arrested since June.