Ethiopia arrests 29 on terrorism charges

Addis Ababa - Ethiopia has arrested 29 people including opposition party members on terrorism-related charges and being members of a rebel group, the government said on Monday.

They were arrested on "suspicion of plotting to commit criminal acts contrary to anti-terrorism legislation", said government spokesperson Shimeles Kemal, claiming they were members of the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF).

The suspects, arrested on August 28, are accused of colluding with the OLF to plant explosives and conduct bomb-training courses.

But opposition leaders dismissed the charges, saying the government is "well-known for its fabrications".

"They [the government] don't want to know the facts, so they come up with their lies," said Andualem Arage, a senior member of the opposition coalition Medrek.

"They are doing this to prevent people from standing up for their rights," Arage added, claiming the government is fearful Arab Spring-type protests could erupt in Ethiopia.

Nine of the detained are members of two prominent opposition parties that are part of the Medrek coalition, the Oromo Federalist Democratic Movement (OFDM) and the Oromo People's Congress (OPC).

The arrests followed the detention of OFDM deputy chair Bekele Gerba and the OPC's Olbana Lelisa last week, shortly after they met with researchers from rights group Amnesty International.

Amnesty claims the government often uses the charge of belonging to the OLF to silence members of the Oromo ethnic group.

The OLF was part of Ethiopia's transition government from 1991 to 1995, after the fall of the Marxist regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam.

After numerous disputes with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's EPRDF party, it quit the coalition and demanded the creation of an independent state to be called Oromia.

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