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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 April 2007, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Ethiopia admits terror detentions
By Amber Henshaw
BBC News, Addis Ababa

Kamilya Mohammedi Tuweni
Kamilya Mohammedi Tuweni was freed after a month in Ethiopian custody
Ethiopia's government has admitted that it detained 41 "terror suspects" who were captured in neighbouring Somalia.

The ministry of foreign affairs said the detainees were from 17 countries including America, Canada and Sweden.

It is the first time the government has admitted that it is holding the foreigners, defending the action as part of the "global war on terror".

Ethiopia denied the detainees had been held incommunicado. It says five have been released, with 24 more to follow.

US ally

Some of the detainees were picked up in Somalia by Ethiopian troops fighting alongside Somalia's transitional government against a radical Islamist group at the end of last year.

Others were deported from Kenya, where many Somalis have fled continued fighting.

Nothing has been done in secret. All legal procedures are being followed and the suspected terrorists have been allowed to appear before the relevant court of law
Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

"This real and concrete struggle is being conducted against local and international terrorism in Somalia... in the course of this confrontation, suspected international terrorists have been and are still being captured by the joint forces of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia and Ethiopia," the ministry said in a statement.

Last month, Human Rights Watch accused Kenya of secretly expelling people, Ethiopia of making dozens "disappear" and US security agents of routinely interrogating people held incommunicado.

In recent years, Ethiopia has been a key American ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, which has been trying to sink roots among Muslims in the Horn of Africa.

In a statement, the Ethiopian ministry of foreign affairs said 12 of the 41 people would remain in custody and would appear before court on 13 April.

Human rights fears

One of those is a 24-year-old American, Amir Meshal.

His lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, told the BBC Mr Meshal had not had access to legal advice in Ethiopia.

map

He is concerned about Mr Meshal facing court in Ethiopia, which he said had a horrific human rights record.

Mr Hafetz said his client should be freed and sent home immediately.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Ethiopia said it had not been granted access to any of the detainees, despite having tried for the last month.

The Ethiopian government denied that any of the people had been held in secret jails or incommunicado.

"Nothing has been done in secret," the statement said. "All legal procedures are being followed, and the suspected terrorists have been allowed to appear before the relevant court of law."


SEE ALSO
Suspects 'detained in Ethiopia'
05 Apr 07 |  Africa
Kenya attacks suspect sent to US
26 Mar 07 |  Americas
Who's who in al-Qaeda
04 Dec 06 |  World
Country profile: Ethiopia
02 Mar 07 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Somalia
06 Mar 07 |  Country profiles

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