WASHINGTON - February 20 - Two anti-poverty campaigners detained in Ethiopia since November have stated that they intend to plead not guilty.
Their next court appearance is on Thursday 23 February.
Daniel Bekele, head of policy at ActionAid Ethiopia, and Netsanet Demessie, director of OSJE (Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia), face a charge of conspiring to overthrow the Ethiopian constitution.
The prosecution alleges that they helped to organise violent protests which took place in early November. 125 other people, and four organisations, face this and up to six additional charges.
Unlike the others accused, the two campaigners have not been shown the evidence upon which the charges against them are based. They therefore do not know the case they are expected to answer.
ActionAid insists that the two men have played no part in organising violence, have done nothing illegal and should not have been charged.
At their last court appearance, on 4 January, the judge refused them bail.
Along with Kassahun Kebede from the Ethiopian teachers’ union, the two anti-poverty activists have appealed to the Supreme Court against the bail decision.
Fikre Zewdie, director of ActionAid Ethiopia, said: “Daniel and Netsanet will both plead not guilty. It was a mistake that this case was brought against them, but we will see it through. We want to see Daniel and Netsanet back with their families and colleagues, free to work for the development of Ethiopia and eradication of poverty.”
Both men were active in the Global Call to Action against Poverty, the worldwide campaign which uses a white band as its symbol. Make Poverty History was the UK’s contribution to GCAP.