Ethiopia: Bekele Gerba Jailed for Singing Protest Song in Court

Opposition leader Bekele Gerba and other political prisoners are said to have broken into a protest song during a court proceeding after the judge rejected an earlier court order calling on PM Hailemariam Desalegn to appear as a defense witness. (Photo: Bekele Gerba pictured at the NPR office in D.C., August 2015/NPR)

Associated Press

Ethiopia top opposition figure gets prison time for contempt

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — One of Ethiopia’s most prominent opposition politicians has been sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court along with three others after they sang a protest song during proceedings.

Bekele Gerba, former deputy head of the Oromo Federalist Congress party, protested after the court withdrew a previous ruling requiring Ethiopia’s prime minister to appear as a defense witness. The state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate says Bekele and the other defendants “wreaked havoc.”

Bekele had been arrested in December 2015 after anti-government protests erupted in parts of the East African country. He was charged with terrorism offenses that later were changed to criminal charges.

He was among the opposition figures expected to be released as part of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s recent announcement to free some imprisoned politicians.

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