Programs: Science and Policy
AAAS Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights and Law Program
AAAS Human Rights Action Network
|Date:||20 August 2003|
|Subject:||Dr. Alemayehu Teferra Released from Prison|
|Issues:||Freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention; Freedom of opinion and expression|
|Type of alert:||New|
|Related alerts:||15 April 1997|
FACTS OF THE CASE:
On 9 June 2003, Dr. Alemayehu Teferra, a civil engineer and former president of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, was released from prison. He credits his release to the international attention to his case.
Ethiopia’s Federal High Court charged Dr. Alemayehu in March 1997 for engaging in “aggravated genocide” through anti-revolutionary activities committed under the government of President Mengistu Haile-Mariam in 1977-78. During this period, commonly referred to as the “Red Terror” campaign, tens of thousands of people were killed, tortured or disappeared. Dr. Alemayehu was the chairman of a local urban-dwellers association during the Red Terror campaign, but he denies committing any atrocities. The government had also absolved him of any crimes in 1991. However, he was arrested in 1993 when the government stated that it had new evidence implicating Dr. Alemayehu in the atrocities of the late 1970s. Despite testimony from other individuals that Dr. Alemayehu was innocent, he remained in jail without being formally charged until 1997. For the remaining six years, his case lingered in the Federal High Court allegedly due to a lack of magistrates to hear the case.
Many human rights organizations believe that his arrest was related to Dr. Alemayehu’s criticism of the government following a brutal repression of students protesting a planned referendum on Eritrean independence on the Addis Ababa University campus. After the crackdown on the protestors, the government sent armed security agents to the campus. Dr. Alemayehu requested the immediate withdrawal of these forces. He was fired from his position of University President shortly thereafter and was arrested four months later.
The AAAS Science and Human Rights Program honored Dr. Alemayehu during its yearly reception at the 1998 AAAS Annual Meeting. The reception honors a scientist, who, through action and example, has promoted human rights, usually at great personal risk. In a letter to the Program Dr. Alemayehu wrote, “I am grateful for the honour you have bestowed upon me in recognizing my efforts to uphold the independence of the academia. For which I paid a price. The plaque you have given me will be among my few memorabilia that I value highly.”
(Source of information for this case is a personal letter from Dr. Alemayehu Teferra dated 7 July 2003 from Addis Ababa Ethiopia.)