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Blue Party’s executives and female members are being denied their freedom of expression!!!

March 14, 2014 Early in the morning, many gathered at the compound of the court house. The hearing was expected to be held at 10:00AM yet only the men arrived. It took the police about an hour longer to bring the girls in. Most looked worried. Then we heard that they were being forced to change their shirts, but they refused to change. After some argument at the police station they were being held in, they finally arrived at the court house at 11:08 AM.
The courthouse was crowded. There were more people standing than there were seated and it was quite humid. After the judge was seated, the prisoners’ attorney and the police inspector handling the case stood at each side and in the middle were the prisoners: The Blue Party’s young members and senior leaders.
The case had been presented 5 days ago and the hearing had ended with denial of bail for the young activists and party members because they were “believed to have terrorized the public” as they were accused of “causing disturbance during Women’s Great Run” which in fact had ended peacefully.
BACKGROUND: On March 9, 2014 the Great Women’s Run was organized in celebration of International Women’s Day a day earlier. According to the report of Dinspector named Yemata at the hearing on March 10, 2014, during the Run, the police had followed the accused and caught them saying the following slogans: “We are the daughters of Tayitu (Tayitu was the wife of Emperor Menillik II)!! , We are daughters of Emeye Menillik!! We are hungry!! We demand the release political prisoners and jailed journalists like Reeyot, Eskinder, Andualam and others!! , and “We oppose the conspiracy of 5 to 1 policy” !! “It suppresses women from expressing themselves freely” !! “It puts them in fear!!” Indeed these were the slogans during the Great Women’s Run. Many found it amusing that these slogans were alleged to be provocative and terrorizing. The men arrested with the girls were accused of supporting their deeds because they were found at the scene carrying their bags and materials.
The police demanded another 14 days’ time for further investigationduring which the accused would be remanded in custody. Police claim that if released, the accused would destroy evidence (when in fact, they already have everything that they claim is evidence). They also presented another silly reason… fear of intimidation of witnesses by the accused.
Sadly the judge denied the prisoners ‘freedom and ruled in favor of these ridiculous claims and ordered their case to be presented on March 14. Most striking during this initial hearing was the fact that the police carried guns into the courthouse and no one stopped them.
Today, after 6 days in jail the police inspector, Yemata, and his mate still insisted on denying bail for the same reason.. This time they requested 7 more days for further investigation. They explained that police worry that if released, the accused would cause harm to the peace of the stateand that the “suspects” don’t have a permanent address.
However, their attorney, Ato Alemu Gobebo (Father of Celebrated prisoner/journalist Reeyot Alemu), explained to the court that the accused members of the Blue Party are responsible citizens who work in various positions and have family responsibilities. Their well-documented employment and residential addresses would be sufficient guarantee for the authorities’ ability to find these people when needed. Ato Alemu further explained that 10 of them are well respected, committed Party members who work hard to bring about change resulting in a democratic and peaceful Ethiopia. Therefore, he said that the argument against bail is totally baseless. He added that this was a conspiracy to keep them behind bars in order to continue the assault against them..
On the other hand, the prisoners explained that they actually feared for their lives. They said that they were offered large amounts of money for working with INSA, the EPRDF spy agency. They described how they stood firm against their interrogators who did not even show ID’s or wear uniforms. One of the prisoners, Nigist Wondifraw, told the court that the previous night, three male police officers came to their cell at midnight and ordered her to come out and go with them. One of the three held a broomstick, with which he warned her he would beat her to death if she didn’t cooperate. The others were also (specially the females) individually called late at night the day before and threatened and physically assaulted. Two of them were crying as they described this. They said that all this abuse had only one purpose --- It is meant to hurt and to intimidate. “They want us to back down. All they want is to embarrass us so that we back down. They beat us because they want us to stop our membership and activism with the Blue Party.”
The judge was quite unsure of what to do. We believe he was trying to counsel everyone there instead of exercising his mandate. It seemed that he couldn’t do or say more than he had been instructed to. Even the inspectors could not say more except to deny all that has been said and to dramatically insist on the request that they get another seven more days.
Finally after a long debate, the judge ordered the police officers to complete all their investigation, by March 18. Thus, yet again today the activists were denied their freedom.
No justice!!
We, members and leaders of the Blue Party will not be demoralized, nor will we back down. We know full well that all these behaviors are characteristic of dictatorial rule. What has taken place gives us a glimpse of the sacrifices we must go through. One of the young women has two daughters; the other young ladies are very young. They enthusiastically want to contribute their best to the country. All they did was exercise their freedom; they stood and expressed their opinion on behalf of millions of women who live in fear. On International Women’s Day, the day we celebrate in honor of women’s freedom, the women of the Blue Party demanded FREEDOM, JUSTICE and EQUALITY especially for all women in Ethiopia and through that, for their brothers and fathers as well. Where are they now? In prison!!
We demand their freedom, for they are freedom fighters.