Police have accused a member of Mahibere Kidusan, an Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church congregation, as being a supporter of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which was recently designated as a terrorist group by the parliament.
Preacher Shewagegnew Kebede was arrested on May 25 2021 for allegedly taking pictures of police officers during a demonstration that was held at the gate of the Church’s Patriarch, the congregation’s secretary Kassahun Haile told Addis Zeybe. The demonstration was held by a group of people who marched to show solidarity to the Patriarch, who condemned the ongoing war in Tigray saying "there is a genocidal act against Tigrayans".
Shewagegnew has been allegedly held without charge for 17 days, at Arada’ police station in Addis Ababa.
“The court has granted him a bail right with a guarantee of 10 thousand Birr,” said Kassahun. “But he is still in jail.”
His Holiness Abune Mathias, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Patriarch, has previously said that genocidal acts are being committed against the Tigrayan people. On the same day of the arrest, there was a meeting of bishops from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church at Patriarch Saint Mary monastery. There was a religious procession addressing questions to the bishops’ meeting related to the country's current issues. Most of the demonstrators were carrying slogans supporting the patriarch's speech.
During the event, the police officers arrived at the offices of the congregation. Shewagegnew was there with his colleagues, Kassahun said. The officers checked everyone’s phone who was in the office. Then they arrested Shewagegnew and said, “he was taking photos of police officers, who were around Saint Mary monastery on duty”.
Shewagegnew was first accused of inciting violence and terror through various media outlets. The Federal First Instance Court Lideta Bench released him on bail two times but the prosecutor appealed and he continued to be held without charge. The case was transferred to the higher court's Lideta bench. Following this an accusation levelled at him was that he was “supporting a terrorist group, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.”
Because the prosecutor appealed to gather full evidence in 14 days, the court has adjourned the case to June 24.