The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

December 23, 2009

Bucknell professor sentenced to death in Ethiopa

Ethiopian court claims economist is a terrorist

LEWISBURG — LEWISBURG — Ethiopa thinks a Bucknell professor should die for his political activity.

A court in Addis Ababa sentenced associate professor Berhanu Nega to death Tuesday, albeit in absentia, accusing him of being part of a terrorist group and conspiring to assassinate government officials.

Nega, speaking from his office on campus, said it is the government that is fomenting terror, and he is being persecuted for fighting for democracy.

Bucknell spokesman Tom Evelyn said the university would decline to comment.

The death sentence included four other people and called for life in prison for 33, all in connection with activities following the election of 2005, when 200 people died in protests.

What they were protesting, Nega said, was the goverment’s invalidation of an election in which he was elected mayor of Addis Ababa and other pro-freedom candidates were put in office.

Nega did not serve as mayor for even a day. He was sent straight to jail by rulers who said his party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy, stole the election, he said.

When people protested the government’s action, about 200 were killed.

“They blamed us, called it treason, put us in jail,” Nega said.

He served 21 months in prison while Bucknell faculty joined those working to get him freed.

He was pardoned in 2007 and returned to Bucknell, where he had worked in the economics department from 1990 to 1994.

It was the second time he had to flee the country of his birth. He left in 1980 when Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown by communists.

“Now a kangaroo court run by these thugs is trying to terrorize people,” Nega said. “It’s because there is an election approaching.”

The government doesn’t want to see a repeat of 2005, when they were ousted, Nega said. “They are trying to intimidate any opposition.”

No one inside the country takes the election seriously, as if it were legitimate, he explained. But the government wants to hold an election for show to placate the West.

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