Ethiopia files terror charges against leading opposition activist Jawar Mohammed

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia has filed terrorism charges against a prominent media mogul and opposition politician from the Oromo ethnic group, Jawar Mohammed, the Attorney General’s Office said on Saturday.

Jawar, the founder of the Oromiya Media Network and a member of the Oromo Federalist Congress party, was arrested in June amid widespread unrest following the assassination of popular Oromo musician Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.

Jawar and 22 other activists, including Oromo opposition leader Bekele Garba, face charges of violating anti-terrorism laws, telecoms laws and firearms laws, the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement on social media.

The accused include journalists and scholars. Bekele is the senior leader of the Oromo Federalist Congress. They will appear in court Monday to respond to the allegations, the attorney general’s office said in the statement.

Jawar, a former ally of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, was instrumental in the Oromo protests that brought Abiy to power in 2018. But he became a critic of Abiy and accused the Prime Minister of not protecting Oromo interests.

Tuuli Baayyis, Jawar’s lawyer, told Reuters they had learned about the allegations from social media as they had not yet received formal indictments. He did not comment on the allegations.

At least nine people have been killed in the Oromiya region around Addis Ababa following clashes between Ethiopian security forces and protesters demanding the release of detained Oromo opposition politicians.

The unrest in Oromiya highlights the challenges Abiy faces ahead of the election, which was due to take place in August but was postponed due to the coronavirus crisis.