Ethiopia charges former intelligence chief over human rights abuses

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Ethiopia has charged powerful former intelligence chief Getachew Assefa and 25 others over alleged human rights abuses, the office of the attorney general said Tuesday.

Getachew was the head of the Ethiopia National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) until June 2018, when he was removed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed amid a raft of reforms in the Horn of Africa nation.

Under Ethiopia’s previous government, the NISS was accused by rights groups of overseeing the torture and murder of dissidents.

Getachew was charged with 25 other intelligence officers, the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

“The 26 suspects have been charged with a total of 46 criminal charges, with 22 of them currently in custody while the other four individuals including Getachew Assefa’s cases will be tried in absentia”, it added.

Since taking office in April 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has sought to address rights violations and break with the country’s authoritarian past.

In July last year, he publicly acknowledged torture carried out by security services, describing it as a form of “terrorism”.

Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye said in January that an arrest warrant had been issued for Getachew, however his whereabouts are unknown, with some reports he is being shielded by officials in his home state of Tigray.