Ethiopia Muslims rally on Fridays as tension rises

Nov 2, 2012, 3:01 PM

Associated Press

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – As midday prayers came to an end at the Grand Anwar mosque in Ethiopia’s capital, worshippers continued on to what has become a regular second act on Fridays _ shouting anti-government slogans.

The demonstrations this Friday did not turn violent. But tensions are rising between the government in this mostly Christian country and Muslim worshippers. On Monday, federal prosecutors charged a group of 29 Muslims with terrorism and working to establish an Islamic republic.

Not all encounters between police and the protesters have been peaceful. In July, hundreds were arrested after a scuffle in the mosque that injured many and damaged property, including city buses.

Religious violence outside the capital has killed eight and wounded about a dozen this year in two incidents, including one last month when protesters tried to free jailed Muslim leaders in the Amhara region. Protests first erupted in December after the state, wary of Islamist extremists, wanted to change the leadership of a religious school in the capital.

The government also expelled two Arabs in May after the pair flew in from Middle East and disseminated pamphlets at the Anwar mosque. Two-thirds of Ethiopians are Christians; the rest are Muslims.

Ethiopia’s former leader, Meles Zenawi, before he died in August expressed concern over rising fundamentalism he said was evident by the first discovery of an al-Qaida cell in the country. A federal court is scheduled to rule Monday in the case of 11 people charged with being members of al-Qaida. One Kenyan national has already pleaded guilty.

Protesters also accuse the government of unconstitutionally encouraging a moderate teaching of Islam called Al-Ahbash and dictating the election of community leaders to support it at an Addis Ababa religious school.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, speaking to parliament on Oct. 16, said the government fully respects freedom of religion and “would not interfere in the affairs of religion just as religion would not interfere in matters of politics.” He blamed “extremist elements” for the protests. He said some protesters “tried to activate a hidden political agenda under the pretext of religion.”

On Monday, federal prosecutors charged a group of 29 people, including the jailed activists, with terrorism.

The group, including a wife of a senior Cabinet minister, now faces charges including leading a covert movement to undermine the country’s secular constitution and establish an Islamic republic. Prosecutors say the group incited violence and called for jihad against the federal government.

The minister’s wife, Habiba Mohammed, is charged with coordinating finances for the group. Police say she was caught leaving the Saudi Arabian embassy in Addis Ababa with nearly $3,000. Other suspects are also charged with receiving pay from the embassy “to preach extremism.”

Before the charges were filed, the minister defended his wife, saying he had asked the Saudi ambassador for the money to help construct a mosque their family is building.

Rights groups are concerned about the trial and the use of an anti-terrorism law which they say has been used in past trials to silence dissent, not prosecute terrorists.

“Many of these trials have been politically motivated and marred by serious due process violations. The Ethiopian authorities should allow systematic independent trial monitoring, including by human rights organizations, throughout the trial,” said Laetitia Bader of Human Rights Watch.

One protester on Friday said his group is changing the color used in past protests, yellow, to white to underscore that the jailed leaders are peaceful activists, not terrorists.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

World News

A fisherman watches smoke rise after Russian forces launched a missile attack on a military unit in...
Associated Press

Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters hit by drone strike

An explosive device carried by a makeshift drone blew up Sunday at the headquarters of Russia's Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean Peninsula.
10 days ago
Medical syringes are seen with 'Monkeypox' sign displayed on a screen in the backgound in this illu...
Associated Press

Monkeypox declared a global emergency by UN health agency

The expanding monkeypox outbreak in more than 70 countries is an “extraordinary” situation that qualifies as a global emergency.
18 days ago
Chinese paramilitary policemen march in front of the Japanese embassy where the Japanese flag is fl...
Associated Press

Japan’s ex-leader Shinzo Abe assassinated during a speech

TOKYO (AP) — Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated Friday on a street in western Japan by a gunman who opened fire on him from behind as he delivered a campaign speech — an attack that stunned a nation with some of the strictest gun control laws anywhere. The 67-year-old Abe, who was Japan’s […]
1 month ago
Firefighters hose down a burning car after a strike hit a residential area, in Kramatorsk, Donetsk ...
Associated Press

Russia taking ‘operational pause’ in Ukraine, analysts say

Analysts say Russia may be taking an "operational pause" in eastern Ukraine to reassemble forces for a significant offensive.
1 month ago
Prime Minister Boris Johnson enters 10 Downing Street, after reading a statement in London, Thursda...
Associated Press

One scandal too many: British PM Boris Johnson resigns

LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation Thursday after droves of top government officials quit over the latest scandal to engulf him, marking an end to three tumultuous years in which he tried to bluster his way through one ethical lapse after another. Months of defiance ended almost with a shrug as […]
1 month ago
Ukrainian servicemen carry the coffin with the remains of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek during a f...
Associated Press

As Ukraine loses troops, how long can it keep up the fight?

ZHYTOMYR (AP) — As soon as they had finished burying a veteran colonel killed by Russian shelling, the cemetery workers readied the next hole. Inevitably, given how quickly death is felling Ukrainian troops on the front lines, the empty grave won’t stay that way for long. Col. Oleksandr Makhachek left behind a widow, Elena, and […]
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Ethiopia Muslims rally on Fridays as tension rises