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 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 18:12 GMT
Ethiopia denies harassing teachers
Police corner a demonstrator
The 2001 riots radicalised many in the education sector
The Ethiopian Government has denied arresting and harassing teachers and students opposed to government policies.

A government spokesman said a Human Rights Watch report was "highly biased" and took issue with a number of examples cited in the report.

HRW said that the security forces targeted teachers and students because they were among the most politically active elements in Ethiopian society.

They are harassing our members by arresting them or taking away their homes

Union leader Taye Woldesmiate
The 52 page report says that because the Horn of Africa country is a key ally in the war against terror, they avoid much international condemnation for their abuses.

A student demonstration at Addis Ababa University in April 2001 calling for greater academic freedom, led to several deaths and many arrests when Ethiopian security forces intervened. It was the worst riot in the capital for a decade.

HRW says the government is operating a harsh repressive policy that includes extrajudicial killings and widespread denials of freedom of opinion and association.

ETA

The report says that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's Government have singled out the largest independent teacher's trade union, the Ethiopian Teacher's Association (ETA).

Detained students (archive photo)
Many students were detained after the riots
Leaders have been arbitrarily arrested and had assets and property confiscated, while union members have been threatened.

ETA leader Taye Woldesmiate said he had spent six years in jail for criticising education policies.

"They don't like free thinkers and they are harassing our members by arresting them or taking away their homes and transferring them to remote locations of the country away from their families."

At Addis Ababa university a climate of self-censorship now reigns, the report says.

"Professors say they curb independent political speech and activity because they are government employees who can be fired at will."

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