Page last updated at 11:30 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 12:30 UK

Protests over Ethiopia pop singer

By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC, Addis Ababa

Teddy Afro (Image:
Teddy Afro's music has been an anthem for anti-government protests.

Ethiopia's most popular pop singer, Teddy Afro, has pleaded not guilty to causing the death of a young man in a hit and run incident 18 months ago.

Thousands of young people mounted an impromptu protest after the High Court hearing, running through the streets, shouting, "Teddy is innocent".

Unauthorised demonstrations are almost unheard of in Ethiopia and there was a heavy paramilitary police presence.

At a previous hearing, the noise of his fans almost drowned out proceedings.

This time the case was moved to a building at the back of the court area, well away from the crowd.

The singer appeared under close police guard, dressed in a pink t-shirt and looking subdued.

He spoke only to plead not guilty to negligent driving, driving without a licence, and failing to stop at the scene of an accident.

The incident in question took place in November 2006 and since then the singer, whose real name is Tewodros Kassahun, has been free on bail.

It is not clear why he was rearrested last week and has now been charged.

He was remanded in custody until next Tuesday.

As the news spread in the street that Teddy was going back to jail, the crowd erupted and a large group of youths started jogging past waving and shouting that the singer was not guilty.

The police chased them with batons until they finally dispersed into the surrounding streets.

This kind of demonstration has not been seen in Addis Ababa since the period after the elections in 2005 when Teddy Afro's songs were playing everywhere and his music was the anthem of the anti-government protesters.

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