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Ethiopian Military Court Jails 66 Soldiers for protesting against Abiy Ahmed

Last updated on December 19th, 2018

The dramatic actions of the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took a new turn, as 66 soldiers have been sentenced to prison. A military court in the country sentenced these soldiers between five to 14 years in prison, for marching to the residence of Ahmed in October, later described as an attempt to derail reforms.

The head of the military tribunals directorate, Col Meshesha Areda informed that one of the 66 defendants was given jail term of 14 years, while the rest of them were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from five to 13 years for “violation of military ethics.”

The 66 detainees were among 200 soldiers in red berets and fatigues, who marched to the Prime Minister office in Addis Ababa.

The government had stated that the soldiers were demanding for a pay rise, but later Ahmed insisted they wanted to kill him.

Prosecutor Cap Hailemariam Mamo stated, “These sentences delivered today will serve as lessons.”

The defendants’ attorney said that he would put up appeals for a few suspects.

In October, when soldiers had marched into his official residence, Abiy Ahmed defused the situation by ordering the soldiers to do press-ups and himself joining in. However, he later told the parliament that he was displeased with the situation.

During a question-and-answer session, Ahmed told MPs, “The march of some members of the army to the National Palace [the prime minister’s office] was not only unlawful but very dangerous, because the intention was to abort the ongoing reforms.”

“Meanwhile, after the situation was brought under control, some forces were heard saying: ‘He escaped before we could kill him,’” he added.

No details about the other soldiers who took part in the protests were shared. However, Cap Hailemariam said on Saturday that the sentences to the 66 soldiers would serve as a lesson.

The Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has brought in some sweeping economic and political reforms since coming to power in April this year. These include, unbanning some outlawed groups, freeing thousands of political prisoners and making peace with long-time rival Eritrea.

Ethiopian prosecutors had charged five suspects with terrorism in September over an attempt to kill the Prime Minister in a grenade attack at a rally in June.He fled uninjured and described the attack at the time as an “unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united.”

The opposition against the Ethiopian Prime Minister has been escalating with time considering the dramatic changes introduced by him. However, rebellious soldiers were a rare sight in the country.

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