These eight men were arrested on August 23rd, 2007, on suspicion of links with the armed opposition group Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). They were being held in the police station in the western town of Nekemte, where there was risk of torture or ill-treatment. Fortunately, on September 7th, 2007, they were all released unconditionally, without charge. There were no complaints of ill-treatment while in custody.
Upon being arrested, the three Ethiopian Human Rights Council local officials had their homes searched, and by law, should’ve been taken to court within 48 hours of their arrest. However, this was not done until September 3rd, at which point they were remanded in custody for investigation into suspected links with the OLF, on account of their work in defence of human rights. The five others were arrested arbitrarily during anti-OLF security operations in parts of the Oromia region.
Thousands of members of the Oromo ethnic group have similarly been detained in recent years on suspicion of links with the OLF, arrested for allegedly distributing pro-OLF leaflets, fundraising or possession of weapons. Many have been tortured. The OLF is based in Eritrea and has been fighting the government since 1992. The detainees include prisoners of conscience who have neither advocated armed opposition nor supported the OLF. Among these are leaders of the Mecha Tulema Association, a long-established and officially registered Oromo community group; these leaders were detained for up to three years.
Letter by Cara E.I. Gibbons sent on September 10, 2007