Prof. Mesfin Wolde-Mariam on Hunger Strike
Defendants to Remain under Police Custody
Addis Tribune 05/1101
Prof. Mesfin Wolde-Mariam and Dr. Berhanu Nega who have been detained by police since Tuesday (May 8, 2001) appeared before court on Wednesday (May 9, 2001) as the 5th Criminal Bench of the Federal High Court ordered the two academics to remain under police custody until May 18, 2001.
The decision of the court followed the demand by Police that the two academics, who allegedly instigated the Addis Ababa University students to protest, would be an obstacle in the evidence collection process if released on bail. Police also told the court that additional time is needed to complete the process.
The defendants argued that there is no need to put them in detention unless there is a plot to "attack them". "I didn't take any food or water for the past 30 hours and I will continue to do so," Prof. Mesfin said at the court.
"I was detained by police simply because I took the Ethiopian Constitution seriously," said the other defendant, Dr. Berhanu
Nega. He told the court that he returned from abroad the day before his detention. "I wouldn't have come back if I wanted to disappear," Dr. Berhanu said.
"Police should first complete collecting its evidence before detaining us and I don't understand the point - detaining first and investigating later," Prof. Mesfin said.
Police alleged that the two academics have incited the protest by University students at a meeting organized by the Ethiopian
Human Rights Council (EHRCO) the day before the student protest began. Both defendants argued there was no crime they have committed and everything they did was in line with the Ethiopian constitution.
The defendants and the EHRCO denied any connection between that meeting and the studentsí protest. The two academics also said they simply gave a lecture on human rights and academic freedom.
The offices and houses of the two defendants have reportedly been under police surveillance since their detention on Tuesday.
"My house has been searched by police today," Dr. Berhanu said at the court. A staff at the office of Dr. Berhanu told Addis Tribune that police have been there since last Tuesday.
Prof. Mesfin Wolde-Mariam is founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRCO) while Dr. Berhanu Nega is a prominent economist and former president of the Ethiopian Economic Association.