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Ethiopia: Despite Release Orders, OLF PR Head, His Driver Remain in Police Custody

Addis Abeba — The head of the public relations bureau of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Batte Urgessa and his driver Wondosen Abdulkadir remain under police custody after the court released them on bail. They appeared in Burayu district court six days after their arrest on March 20, 2021. Batte and Wondosen were arrested on March 20, 2021 while visiting fellow party members detained at a police detention center in Burayu.

At the court hearing on March 25, 2021, the police accused them of attempting to forcefully release their jailed party members and having relations with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). The police requested additional nine days to remand and investigate them, according to OLF’s interim Public relations head, Lammi Gemechu.

Batte and Wondosen made their second appearance in court on April 1, 2021. The police told the court that it has concluded the investigation related to the accusations of creating riot at the premises of the detention center. Their lawyer Tokuma Dhaba told Addis Standard, “The police asked the court to be given additional days to investigate an alleged connection the two accused have with unspecified ‘enemies’.” The defense team demanded transparency and disclosure of the name of said enemy and argued for the release of their clients while the police proceeded with the investigation.

The court granted 5,000 ETB bail for each defendant and ordered their release. “We paid the requested bail money but we were told that the investigator was not around.” Tokuma said, explaining how their clients remain under custody after the court ordered their release. Their families who went to the police station the morning of April 2, 2021 were told that they can not be released. According to Tokuma, the families were told that the Batte and Wondosen are facing other charges so they will remain under custody.

The interim Public relations head of the party told Addis Standard that the party had notified both the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia of Ethiopia (NEBE) and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) of the unlawful arrest of Batte Wondesen via letters dated March 22, 2021. AS

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