Free Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie! sign now

We are writing to ask your support for the release of two courageous Ethiopian civic and anti-poverty activists Daniel Bekele, the Head of Policy Research and Advocacy Department of ActionAid Ethiopia, and Netsanet Demessie, Executive Director and co-founder of the Ethiopian NGO, Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia (OSJE).

It is the second anniversary of the arrest of Daniel and Netsanet. Their arrests, in addition to the arrest of journalists and members of the main opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party, prompted Amnesty International to declare all of them Prisoners of Conscience. Two months after their arrest and detention, they were charged with an attempt and conspiracy to overthrow the constitutional order, an offence punishable by death or life imprisonment.

In April 2007, the Second Bench of the Federal High Court of Ethiopia held that the prosecution had proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt and ordered the accused, including Daniel and Netsanet, to present their defence. However, the presiding judge dissented saying that Daniel and Netsanet should be acquitted without requiring them to defend the charges against them because the prosecution had no case against them. The presiding judge confirmed that the allegations against them did not show anything more than the same peaceful civic activities they had engaged in before and after the elections. The evidence against them was based on hearsay and the inconsistent testimony of unreliable witnesses. In addition to the unequivocal findings of the presiding judge, Daniel and Netsanet provided substantial evidence to prove their innocence by calling credible witnesses, including a U.N. election official and others who worked with the two activists in connection with the 2005 elections.
Most of the defendants who were charged with Daniel and Netsanet had initially refused to defend themselves. They were found guilty and some were sentenced to life imprisonment. They were released several days later only after they signed a pardon letter admitting that they had committed mistakes. However, Daniel and Netsanet, refused to sign a similar document and persisted with their decision to establish their innocence through the judicial process. Despite the overwhelming evidence provided on their behalf, Ethiopias Supreme Court has once again rejected their appeal for bail while the trial, which was supposed to have been concluded in October, was adjourned for an additional forty-five days.

Given previous patterns of delay and confusion by the court, it is not clear whether it would deliver its verdict at the scheduled date or if its verdict would lead to the acquittal and release of the prisoners of conscience, which is the only just outcome in this case. Any continuation of the unjust and prolonged detention of the two activists is not only a gross miscarriage of justice, but also an affront to civil society and the cause, such as the campaign against poverty in Ethiopia and Africa, which Daniel and Nestanet steadfastly advocate. As stated by Mr. Salil Shetty, the Director of the United Nations Millennium Campaign,
Anti-poverty and MDG campaigners across the world are deeply concerned about the detention of their peaceful fellow campaigners Daniel and Netsanet in Ethiopia. Their immediate release will help the cause of the poorest people in Ethiopia which is the singular objective of the Ethiopian MDG campaign.

Thereby, we request you to urge the Ethiopian government to immediately and unconditionally release Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demisse.

Further information on Daniel and Netsanet is available at and

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Ollie NortonBy:
City LifeIn:
Petition target:
The Governments of the United States of America and the United Kingdom,The European Union, The Secretary-General of the United Nations, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, The African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights, International H


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