EI is working with partner Global Union Federations, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), as well as Amnesty International for the release of Kassahun Kebede, chairperson of the Addis Ababa branch of EI affiliate, the Ethiopian Teachers' Association (ETA).
Kassahun Kebede is among the 131 opposition leaders, human rights defenders and journalists facing trial in Addis Ababa on charges that include treason, conspiracy and genocide. According to the press release dated 22 Feb 2006, Kassahun Kebede has been officially adopted as prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. At a Federal High Court hearing on 23 Feb, Kassahun Kebede, together with Daniel Bekelle, a lawyer and policy manager of the ActionAid office in Ethiopia, and Netsanet Demissie, an environmental and human rights lawyer, chair of the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia, pleaded not guilty to the charges. Their lawyers stated that the charges filed by prosecutors against their clients were vague and unfounded, and asked the court either to dismiss the charges altogether and release the defendants or to amend the charges. Unfortunately, on 1 Mar, the judge dismissed those demands. The trial of the 131 is adjourned to 22 Mar and EI will continue to monitor it closely. Solidarity actions from member organisations around the world are crucial. EI would like to highlight the continuing support of several member organisations such as the National Union of Teachers (NUT), UK and the Algemene Onderwijsbond (AOb), the Netherlands. The NUT has maintained regular contacts with the British government since the recent deterioration of the human rights situation in Ethiopia, leading to the UK suspending £50 million aid to the Ethiopian government over concerns about its commitment to human rights and allocating this amount to aid agencies or local authorities. The AOb currently contributes to the costs incurred by Kebede’s legal defence. For more information, please read our Urgent Action Appeal dated 4 Nov 2005 as well as Amnesty International's press statement.