By William Davison
An Ethiopian court sentenced three British citizens to prison after finding them guilty of trying to establish Islamic rule in the country through acts of “terrorism,” according to a Justice Ministry official.
Ali Adorus was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in Ethiopian prison, while Somalia-born Mohammed Ahmed and Ahmed Elmi were each given jail terms of four years and eight months, Fekadu Tsega, coordinator of the federal center of prosecution, said by phone yesterday from the capital, Addis Ababa.
“They were accused of trying to unconstitutionally change the government and introduce Islamic government in Ethiopia by terrorism,” he said.
Ethiopia, where Christianity dates to about the fourth century and is followed by about 60 percent of the country’s 94 million people, sent troops three years ago into Somalia to help African Union peacekeepers battle al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab. The group has since 2006 been trying to overthrow the government in Somalia and impose Shariah, or Islamic law, there.
The militants have threatened to attack Ethiopia in revenge for its military presence in Somalia, as they’ve done in other troop-contributing nations, including Kenya and Uganda. Al-Shabaab carried out twin bombings in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, in 2010 that left more than 70 people dead and raided a shopping mall in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in 2013, killing at least 67 civilians and security personnel.
The three British men were charged with contravening the country’s 2009 anti-terrorism law, Fekadu said. The prosecution and defense have the right to appeal against the sentences. Donors such as the U.S. and the United Nations have said that Ethiopia’s 2009 anti-terrorism law is used to silence legitimate dissent from journalists, opposition politicians and other critics of the state.
The men formed a militia in 2006 and first entered Ethiopia in 2011, Fekadu said. The court found they had links with a Yemen-based section of the Oromo Liberation Front, a group banned in Ethiopia that’s fighting for more autonomy for the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.
Adorus, who was arrested in January 2013 in Ethiopia, signed a false confession under torture, according to Cage, a London-based justice group,
“Ali Adorus was brutally beaten, handcuffed behind his back for extended period of time, beaten on his hands with heavy wires, hooded, electrocuted and denied toilet access,” Cage said in a statement on its website, citing a UN petition. “Without legal assistance, the Londoner eventually signed a false confession in Amharic, a language he does not even speak.”
The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office has provided consular assistance to Adorus, a spokeswoman, who declined to be identified in line with policy, said by phone from London yesterday, without providing further information.
The mobile phone of Communications Minister Redwan Hussien didn’t connect today when Bloomberg News called him for comment, while Shimeles Kemal, state minister for communications, didn’t answer a call to his mobile phone.