29 September 2005
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) - Ethiopian authorities have arrested hundreds of opposition supporters and killed one in the past 11 days before a major opposition rally scheduled for this weekend, opposition leaders said Thursday.
They said the rally has now been postponed because the government placed conditions for it to be held.
Beginning Sept. 19, authorities had arrested 859 opposition members across the country and security forces had killed one opposition member in the Amhara region, 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of the capital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's two main opposition groups said in a statement.
"The whereabouts of hundreds of people is also not yet known throughout the country," the Coalition for Unity and Democracy and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces said. They also said that their supporters in custody were being beaten.
Information Minister Bereket Simon confirmed that the government had arrested opposition supporters across the country, but he did not know the exact number.
"They have been involved in preparing violence including (in) Addis Ababa and other towns of the country. We have full evidence and documents for the arrest of these people," Bereket said.
Beyene Petros, vice chairman of the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, said that a major rally the opposition parties had scheduled to hold in Addis Ababa on Sunday has been postponed because the government said the parties needed to unconditionally accept the results of Ethiopia's controversial May 15 parliamentary elections.
"We refuse to do that because we need to hold meetings with our members to decide our next action on the matter," Beyene said, adding that the opposition did not plan to overthrow the government as Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and other officials have alleged.
The Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front party was declared the winner of troubled May parliamentary polls that saw dozens killed by police in demonstrations in Addis Ababa to protest alleged election fraud.
Final results released by the National Electoral Board gave Meles's Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front control of 60 percent of the 547-seat parliament, or 327 seats, enough to form the next government. Opposition parties got 174 seats -- a substantial improvement over the 12 that they won in the previous 2000 elections.
European Union observers and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter have expressed serious concerns about the elections, but also said that overall the experience would encourage democracy. It was the first election in Ethiopia's history that foreign experts were allowed to observe.