Peter Heinlein, VOA | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
“Natnael complained that for 23 days he was beaten, his clothes were taken, he was left naked, water dumped on him and he was not allowed to sleep, and he had been physically and [psychologically] abused,” said Negaso.
Ethiopia has formally charged 24 people, including senior opposition politicians and an outspoken Internet journalist, with plotting terrorist acts to create public chaos. Eight of the defendants appeared in court to hear the charges, while the others are to be tried in absentia.
Two leaders of Ethiopia’s Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, Andualem Arage and Natnael Mekonnen, stood alongside columnist Eskinder Nega in federal court Thursday to hear the charges against them. Most of the six charges involve alleged violations of an anti-terrorism law that has come in for harsh criticism from human rights and press freedom groups.
The trio were among the opposition figures arrested in police sweeps in September. They have since been held without bail. Former Ethiopian president Negaso Gidada, who attended the proceedings, told VOA by telephone that Natnael told the court he had been abused repeatedly in custody.