Two of the 15 Oromo Ethiopians sentenced on charges that they allegedly committed killings and robberies to support rebel Oromo Liberation Front forces have left Ethiopia and claimed they are innocent of all charges. One of the escaped defendants, Dajanee Boranaa Imanaa, said he was charged with contributing 150 birr to the OLF, and was beaten and tortured while in prison

Ethiopian Justice Ministry spokesman Mekonnen Bezabeih told VOA’s Addis correspondent, Peter Heinlein, that the charges included killing and armed robberies aimed at terrorizing the population and financing the OLF’s separatist campaign.

Dajanee is one of 15, who were accused of supporting the rebel Oromo Liberation Front, which seeks secession from Ethiopia for the Oromo region. Among others tried earlier this month were two civil engineers, Mesfin Abebe Abdissa and Tesfahun Chemeda Gurmessa. Both previously worked for the Oromiya Rural Road Authority on construction projects. Mesfin was sentenced to death; Tesfahun was given a life term.

Other refugees in Nairobi told the Afan Oromo service the Ethiopians sentenced to death and to life in prison without parole claim they were captured in Nairobi by Ethiopian agents while they were living as refugees seeking political asylum under the protection of the UN High Commission for Refugees. Officials with UNHCR in Nairobi were unavailable to comment.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice recently declined comment to the Afan Oromo’s Jalene Gemeda.

– VOA News