LONDON – Ms. Bertukan Mideksa, an opposition leader Ethiopians regard as a unifying force of their ethnically-fragmented country, may be sent to Kaliti, a notorious prison where the 34-year-old former judge spent nearly two years before her release last year. A Clemency Board controlled by the ruling party on Saturday decided that the arrest of the leader of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP – Andinet) should be arrested for allegedly failing to give “adequate response” to police.
On Sunday, www.abugidainfo.com, a pro-democracy website based in Boston, broke the news that the Clemency Board was after the arrest of Bertukan, the first female leader of a major opposition party in the history of Ethiopia. The government of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi is incriminating Ms. Bertukan for telling support groups in Europe last November that she and other leaders of the former Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) were released thanks to mediation efforts by a group of prominent elders called shimagle. The government wants the opposition leader to acknowledge that her release was dependent on taking responsibilities for the violence that followed the 2005 elections, and posting an apology to the government in exchange for clemency.If the head of state, President Girma Woldegiorgis, approved the Clemency Board’s request for the arrest of the opposition leader, Bertukan would end up behind bars, the report that appeared in Amharic on AbugidaInfo warned. Observers say the symbolic head of state has no executive power, and he would approve whatever the Clemency Board passed as a decision.
Police last week gave Bertukan a three-day ultimatum either to recant her remarks or go to jail for life. She said she had committed no wrongdoing.
“The relentless campaign of fear and intimidation targets not only me but also all law-abiding activists,” Bertukan warned in a statement.
Since the last several days, Ms. Bertukan has been the target of vitriolic attacks by the state-run media, while her daily life has been haunted by government security agents who check her movement in four cars.
Bertukan and her party, UDJP enjoy tremendous support at home and abroad.
Despite the threat of arrest in the spy-infested society, UDJP was able to draw over 5,000 enthusiastic supporters to its first ever meeting in Addis recently.
Following news of the government campaign of intimidation, Bertukan was able to draw a swift show of solidarity from the powerful association of UDJP support groups in North America.
The Zenawi regime, which has deliberately fragmented Ethiopia under an apartheid-look-alike system of misrule since 1991, is often denounced by human rights organizations as one of the most ruthless regimes in Africa.