Ethiopian courts have adjourned until June 2 the case of leading opposition leader Merera Gudina, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), who has denied charges of terrorism lodged against him.
A hearing scheduled for Thursday followed last week’s 11-page response, presented by Merera and his legal team, arguing that his travel to Europe in late 2016 was not a violation of Ethiopia’s state of emergency provisions or its terrorism laws.
Merera, a scholar and politician, has previously told the court that he has spent his life opposed to violence and terrorism.
In November, Merera delivered a speech to members of the European Union Parliament and testified on the Ethiopian human rights crisis, along with opposition leader Berhanu Nega and high-profile Oromo Olympic athlete Feyisa Lilesa.
A photo of them sitting together was widely circulated. He was arrested immediately upon his return to Addis Ababa, sparking an ongoing outcry from human rights organizations and activists, including the Ethiopian Human Rights Project.
Ethiopian authorities say Merera violated a provision that forbids contact with terrorist organizations by meeting with the exiled Berhanu Nega in Brussels.
“Despite his awareness of these provisions, Dr. Merera Gudina allegedly met and discussed with the leader of a group listed as terrorist in Brussels,” the Ethiopian embassy in Belgium said in a December 20 statement.
“Hence, the arrest of Dr Merera Gudina is not related with the meeting in the European Parliament but the alleged discussion with the leader of a terrorist group. If this meeting is confirmed by the investigation, this would have to be considered as a clear and deliberate violation of the state of emergency.”
In February, Ethiopian government documents showed that similar charges were filed against both Berhanu and Jawar Mohammed, head of the Oromia Media Network (OMN) based in the United States.