Two Christians Unlawfully Arrested in Ethiopia for “Crimes Against Islam”

Radicals Use Local Governments to Persecute Christians

6/10/2013 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that two Christian men were arrested in Ethiopia by local police influenced by radical Muslims. In separate incidents, these men were detained by local police for what authorities are calling “crimes against Islam,” even though no such crime exists in Ethiopia’s penal code.

In late March, Alemlayehu Legese was arrested by local police in Dodola, a city located 180 miles south of Addis Ababa, after admitting to owning literature that “discussed the history of Islam from a Christian perspective.” Legese, a student at Dodola Mekane Yesus Bible School, dropped off the literature at a copy shop where a Muslim employee who felt Christians should not be allowed to read about the history of Islam contacted police. “The police officers treated this incident as if it were a terrorist attack,” an ICC representative in Ethiopia said.

Fearful the investigation could lead to widespread violence, the local church advised Legese to report to the police and admit to owning the literature. Upon reporting to the police, Legese was arrested and imprisoned. When ICC asked why Legese was being imprisoned without being formally charged, the local police commander said they were detaining Legese to “cool down the anger of local Muslims.” It has been over two months since Legese was imprisoned, formal charges are yet to be laid against him.

On May 25, Tamirat Woldegiorgis, a Christian living in Moyale Town, located on Ethiopia’s border with Kenya, was arrested by local police. Many are concerned this arrest is connected to a previous arbitrary detention Woldegiorgis served from 2010-2012, when he spent 22 months in prison because local police accused him of “crimes against Islam.”

Local radicals claimed that Woldegiorgis wrote “Jesus is Lord” on the notebook of a student attending a local madrassa. Woldegiorgis was released on May 2, 2012 when human rights organizations, including ICC, became involved in the case. Woldegiorgis was again released on June 5, but was required to pay a bail of $5,319 for an unspecified criminal charge and will still face court hearings on June 10.

ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, William Stark, said, “The Ethiopian Constitution and the country’s laws protect the freedom of religion. Both Tamirat Woldegiorgis and Alemlayehu Legese are being denied that right and have reported being terrorized by their captors because of their Christian faith. These Christian men are being unlawfully punished for “crimes against Islam” as interpreted by local police who are being influenced by radical pressures or ideologies. ICC has contacted both police stations and asked that the charges against both Woldegiorgis and Legese be dropped. In an effort to secure the innocence of these men, ICC is calling on people to contact the Ethiopian Embassy, either by phone at (202) 364-1200 or email at ethiopia@ethiopianembassy.org, to demand the charges against these Christian men be dropped immediately.

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