Date:03rd August 2009 Ref: OHRC/PRAU/1209
BASHIR AHMED MAKHTAL: ADDIS ABABA COURT’S SENTENCE: A MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE
In June 1963, the Ogaden Liberation Front was founded by Garad Makhtal Garad Dahir, who is Mr Bashir’s grandfather.
According to his family Mr Bashir was born, in Dagah-bour, the capital of Jarar region.
In his boyhood his town was burned and razed to the ground by Ethiopian government forces, and he witnessed the death of many of his close relatives and clansmen at that time.
After the destruction of his hometown, his family like many other Somali-Ogaden families fled to the neighbouring Somalia seeking safe shelter.
In 1991, Somalia plunged into bloody civil war. Warring militias in Somalia carried out horrendous massacres, which claimed many innocent lives in the refugee camps, in northern and southern Somalia.
Mr Bashir arrived in Canada, in 1991, as a refugee. He studied, worked and then became a Canadian citizen in 1994.
In 2001, he established his own business and returned to East Africa, where he ran a used-clothing enterprise.
TWO-AND-A-HALF YEARS OF ILLEGAL IMPRISONMENT AND TORTURE
On December 31st 2006, Mr Bashir Ahmed Makhtal, a prominent Canadian businessman, who originates from the Ogaden region, was arrested by the Kenyan authorities while he was crossing the border between Kenya and Somalia with a valid Canadian passport. No reason was given for his illegal detention. (See OHRC’s press release Kenya: Illegally arrests and renders Ogaden Somalis to Ethiopian military in Somalia ref: OHRC/PRO/0207).
On January 21st 2007, Mr Makhtal and three other Somalis from the Ogaden region were airlifted secretly to Mogadishu airport and then handed over to the Ethiopian authorities against their will. They were beaten up, blindfolded and then transferred to secret military detention centre in Ethiopia. (See OHRC’s press release Kenya: Illegally arrests and renders Ogaden Somalis to Ethiopian military in Somalia ref: OHRC/PRO/0207).
According to his co-detainees who were released lately, they have been constantly interrogated under torture and did not get any medical treatment for their injuries.
Mr Bashir was accused of being a member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. He has been brought before an Ethiopian court several times. Each time, he was taken back to his cell for lack of evidence.
On July 27 th 2009, an Ethiopian court, in Addis Ababa, convicted him of being a member of the ONLF and supporting terrorism in the Ogaden.
Today Mr Bashir was given a life sentence by the same kangaroo court.
Throughout his appearances in the court he pleaded not guilty. But as usual in Ethiopian justice system, the court’s verdict was fait accompli.
He was not informed the particulars of the charges and reasons for his arrest, has not had access to any evidence presented against him and was not represented by a proper legal counsel and his trial was marred by many problems and irregularities. The court proceedings were in Amharic; a language which he could not understand and he was not provided with an accurate account of it in his mother tongue or in English.
Hence, he did not receive fair trial in accordance with recognized international standards.
On the basis of available information about his case, the OHRC believes that there was not credible evidence for his conviction, and his trial was a travesty of justice, and considers him prisoner of conscience and a victim of political vendetta.
To the best of OHRC’s knowledge, Mr Bashir Ahmed Makhtal was not involved in any illegal activities, and has no political affiliation whatsoever.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee is concerned about his safety and well-being and condemns the sentence of the Ethiopian Court, which is gross miscarriage of justice, and demands his unconditional and immediate release.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee urges the Canadian Government to seek the immediate and unconditional release of its citizen as well as his family members who are being held without charge or trial in notorious Ethiopian jails.
Ogaden Human Rights Committee