SEATTLE – Security forces on Monday arrested Ms. Bertukan Mideksa, leader of the fledgling opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP), sources said.
“Civilian clothed security picked up the opposition leader at 2:00PM Monday, after roughing up 80-year-old human rights activist Professor Mesfin Weldemariam,” according to Ethiomedia sources.
Birtukan, who is entangled in a bitter controversy with the EPRDF led government over the content of her release after the infamous treason trial of 2005, refused to recant statements she made during a working visit to Sweden last month.
In an open letter released on Friday she maintained that her release from prison could not be reduced to a plain pardon as is being disingenuously alleged by the EPRDF led government ,but is rather a complex outcome of a protracted negotiation between her party and the government mediated by elders.
The pardon board convened an emergency meeting on Saturday to rubber stamp EPRDF’s pronouncement, and civilian-clothed security agents picked her up from Prison Fellowship’s office today, where she and Professor Mesfin had gone at the behest of elders who are once again mediating between the EPRDF and the opposition.
Group says ‘arrest Bertukan’
LONDON (Ethiomedia) – 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 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.