Date: 28th July 2009 Ref: OHRC/PRJ/0209
BASHIR AHMED MAKHTAL: ETHIOPIAN COURT’S CONVICTION IS TRAVESY OF JUSTICE
On December 31st 2006, 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.
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 kangaroo court, in Addis Ababa, convicted him of being a member of the ONLF and supporting terrorism in the Ogaden. According to the Ethiopian law this conviction carries capital punishment. The court will pronounce its verdict in the near future.
Throughout his appearances in the court he pleaded not guilty. But as usual in Ethiopia the court’s conviction 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.
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 all members of his family – who are in detention- prisoners of conscience and victims of Ethiopian government’s personal vendetta.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee believes that Ethiopian government is bent on destroying Garad Makhtal Dahir’s family because of late Makhtal’s role in founding Ogaden Liberation Front.
Since his arrest the Ethiopian government has hunted down all members of his family without an apparent reason.
On May 17th 2007, in Jigjiga, Ethiopian security forces and the local police collected a number of his relatives from their residences in the dead of night. And then they were transferred to Garabcase military barracks and Jigjiga Police Centre. Among them were: Ruqiya Ahmed Makhtal, Hassan Ahmed Makhtal, Mohamed Hassan Ahmed Makhtal, Mulki Sheikh Salah, Dakhare Hassan Ahmed, Abdullahi Dahir Adan, Abdi Mohamed and Abdirahim Mukhtar.
On August 28th 2007, in Jigjiga, Ethiopian security forces and the local police collected Suldan Fowsi Mohamed Ali, a cousin of Bashir Ahmed Makhtal, from his residence in the dead of night. And then he was transferred to an underground military detention in Jigjiga. (See Ogaden: Ethiopian Government Forces: Massacre, displace and starve out the civilian population with impunity ref: OHRC/AR/07).
On May 12th 2008, Suldan Fowsi Mohamed Ali, a prominent community elder and a peace activist was sentenced to 22 years in prison by an Ethiopian regional court in Jigjiga. He was transferred to Zuway prison, in Amhara region, far away from his family and relatives. (See Ogaden: Ethiopian Court’s Sentences are Mockery of Justice ref: Ref: OHRC/PRM/0208).
Bashir Ahmed Makhtal’s family members and relatives were subjected to extensive torture. The remaining members of his family went into hiding for fear of their lives.
Recently, Hassan Ahmed Makhtal, Abdi Mohamed and Abdirahim Mukhtar, his brother and two nephews respectively, were released on bail, and were restricted to Jigjiga, after 22 months of detention without official charges or trial.
The OHRC, which called for them to be either charged with recognizable criminal offences and given fair trials or released unconditionally, welcomes their release, and calls upon the Ethiopian government to lift the unconstitutional restrictions imposed on them, and asks the unconditional and immediate release of other detainees as well.
To the best of OHRC’s knowledge, Bashir Ahmed Makhtal and members of his family were not involved in any illegal activities, and have no political affiliation whatsoever.
The Ogaden Human Rights Committee is concerned about their safety and well-being and condemns the conviction of the Addis Ababa Kangaroo Court and demands their 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 on humanitarian grounds.
Ogaden Human Rights Committee