Saturday, June 11, 2005

Ethiopia Opposition Leader Stays Under House Arrest

Ethiopian opposition leader Hailu Shawel said on Saturday the government had put him and his family under house arrest a day after it threatened to detain opposition leaders if violence over recent elections persisted.

"I am not allowed to leave my residence, my wife and maid are not allowed to leave and no one is allowed to visit," said Hailu, chairman of the main opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD). "I am virtually in prison."

A plainclothed security man prevents a journalist from filming the leader of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Hailu Shawel as he stands behind a gate at his house, Saturday, June 11, 2005 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia after he and a senior official of the opposition party, Lidetu Ayalew were put under house arrest. Tim Clarke, the European Commission chief in Ethiopia, who helped negotiate the agreement between the parties, was trying to help secure the leaders' release. Journalists were attacked by members of the police and had their camera's confiscated outside Shawel's house. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

Witnesses said journalists who went to interview Hailu at home were roughed up and their cameras confiscated. But diplomats had been allowed to see the opposition leader.

Protests began on Monday, defying a ban ordered by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, after weeks of opposition allegations that the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front(EDRDF) intimidated voters and rigged elections last month.

Violence erupted on Wednesday when police and troops fired into crowds of protesters, killing at least 26 people. Since then security forces have rounded up youths and detained opposition members.

Meles said on Friday in an interview with Reuters that the government would stop opposition leaders from leaving the country and could detain people without question "if things get hotter."

CUD deputy chairman Berhanu Nega was stopped at the airport on Friday while trying to leave for London on a fund-raising trip. More than a dozen other CUD members also remain in police custody. Information Minister Bereket Simon said CUD leaders had rejected a deal agreed on Friday which called on the opposition and the ruling party not to incite violence and to support the work of the electoral commission.

He said the CUD had demanded that the government release all those arrested over the violence.

"Immediately after the rejection of the agreement, the government observed new activities from CUD aimed at inciting more violence," Bereket said. "For this reason the government has denied CUD leaders the opportunity to communicate."

Yahoo! News/Reuters

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