By Tesfa-Alem Tekle (ST), ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – An Ethiopian court has convicted a man over slaying of an opposition parliamentary candidate, sending him to 15 years behind bars.
The opposition Candidate, Aregawi Gebreyohannes of Arena-Tigray party, was stabbed to death earlier this month, in a bar he owned in Hitsat Village, in the northern Tigray region, at the home ground of the ruling EPRDF party. The murder raised questions of possible political motives behind it, as country’s election approaches.
Considering the Ethiopian criminal law, where murder offenses penalize up to death sentence, the judgment is a reduced one. However court of the Tigray Regional state in its verdict said that the minimum sentences was considering defendant’s no previous criminal record and deep regret he showed
The opposition group’s leader however has expressed anger on the court’s ruling. “The court’s whole proceeding was unfair and the decision was unfair too,” Arena-Tigray leader Gebru Asrat told Sudan Tribune.
“The case was closed such in a hurry while the government knows that our party was in a joint process to investigate the crime with the national electoral board before any final court decision is passed.”
The opposition official further said that other perpetrators of the killing were not brought to justice.
“Five other perpetrators were not tried, though it was obvious on their involvement, instead they were made to stand in court as witnesses,” Gebru added.
When asked if his party still believes a political motive behind the attack Gebru Asrat said that ‘‘with the unfair trial, it is a pretty much likely to say a political motive behind the attack’’
Ethiopian officials have dismissed allegations of any political connection saying it was rather a personal quarrel that led to candidate’s death.
This year’s election will be the first for the horn of Africa’s country since 2005 election, where post election violence triggered by allegations of fraud claimed the lives of nearly 200 protesters in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The opposition group Arena Tigray, One member of the eight party opposition coalition, Forum, which is believed to challenge the ruling EPRDF party in the upcoming national election, scheduled to May, 2010.