Supporters decry life sentence for Canadian in Ethiopia for terrorism



OTTAWA - Family and supporters of a Canadian sentenced to life in prison in Ethiopia on terrorism-related charges said Monday they would press Ottawa to cut off development aid if Ethiopia does not repatriate him.
Bashir Makhtal was last week convicted on charges that he supported the Ogaden National Liberation Front, an Ethiopian separatist movement.
The Canadian, who had also been accused of supporting Islamist militias in Somalia, was sentenced Monday by the high court in Addis Ababa.



Supporters decry life sentence for Canadian in Ethiopia for terrorism
Makhtal's family told AFP the sentence would be appealed. They also urged the Canadian government to withdraw tens of millions of dollars in development aid earmarked for Ethiopia if he is not released.
"The time for diplomacy has passed. Now it's time for action, for the Canadian government to intervene forcefully," said Makhtal's cousin Said Makhtal, describing the sentence as "unjust, unfair, and unacceptable."
"My cousin's only hope now is the government of Canada," he said.
"We strongly urge the Canadian government to demand his repatriation," said Ahmed Hussen, president of the Canadian Somali Congress, speaking on behalf of Makhtal's supporters.
"Canada is a generous aid donor to Ethiopia and we should use this leverage to make clear to Ethiopia that Canada will not accept this unfair and unjust sentence handed to a Canadian citizen," he said.
Makhtal's Canadian lawyer Lorne Waldman also said: "There should be no development aid going to Ethiopia as long as Mr Makhtal is languishing in an Ethiopian prison."
Waldman called the decision by Ethiopia's high court a "travesty of justice."
Canada's Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a statement his government is "extremely disappointed by the maximum jail sentence" handed down against Makhtal and would continue to "explore all options for supporting" him.
Makhtal, 40, was among some 150 people detained by Kenyan forces on the border with Somalia as they fled invading Ethiopian troops in early 2007.
He was initially accused of supporting the hardline Islamist movement in Somalia that Ethiopian forces were entering the country to oust and later faced allegations that he aided the Ogaden National Liberation Front.
Makhtal denied all the charges, for which prosecutors sought the death penalty. His defense lawyers argued for a lighter sentence, noting that Makhtal had already spent several years in jail since being arrested.
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Tuesday, August 4th 2009
AFP
           


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