Imprisoned Waldeba Monks Grievously Abused
Under the case file “Teshager Woldemichael, et al”, 35 individuals were imprisoned with 32 of the inmates having their charges dropped and recently being freed by the government. The remaining three inmates under this case file are Ato Nega Zelealem, and two monks from Waldeba Monastery Aba Gebre’Eyesus Kidane’Mariam and Aba Gebre’Selassie Woldemariam. The monks were charged with association with the Quest for Identity and Geographic Restoration of Wolkait and are currently imprisoned in Qilinto Correctional Facility.
“There is no meaningful justification for the continued imprisonment of the monks; they should have already been released,” said the monks’ lawyer, Ato Ameha Mekonnen when speaking to Voice of America. There have also been reports of the monks being forced to remove their ‘habits’ (monastic clothing) by the Qilinto Prison guards, and of being tortured and abused for their refusal.
Ato Ameha said he had appealed the case to the Federal High Court and told VOA that the court had ordered the Qilinto Correctional Facility Administration to provide answers in relation to these charges on March 9, 2018. Since the Federal Prosecutor had asked for a continuance to prepare its witnesses for its case against the monks, the Court has issued a continuance and set an appointment for March 27th, 2018 to hear the plaintiff’s witness testimony. The defendants’ litigator added that he has appealed the monks’ continued imprisonment to the Federal Attorney General.
Priest Ashenafi Duga, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Representative from Washington DC and Virginia, voiced his concern over the coercion and abuse of the two Waldeba monks. “These monks have shunned all aspects of ‘material existence’ and abandoned all social and physical ties with the world. One cannot simply ask monks to remove their habits, or any part thereof. Each piece of monastic clothing has meaning and special significance. This is tantamount to tempting the monks’ faith and fighting against their religious beliefs, which will lead the antagonists towards punishment and deep spiritual regret.”
Abune Yostatiyos, Patriarch of the Debre Gelila Kidus Bale’Weld Church in Seattle, Washington also condemned the treatment of the monks. “As any Ethiopian, these monks should be treated with respect in accordance with their basic human rights. The monks should have actually received ‘special’ treatment based on their position in the society and their role as the spiritual protectors of the country. Instead, they face beatings, torture and being dragged around on the ground – this will not benefit the government in any way,” said the Abune, calling for the immediate release of the two monks.
“The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church should have protected the monks from abuse and ill treatment. How come they have stayed silent about this grave violation?” asked the Abune, denouncing the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church for its ‘lack of involvement’.
VOA journalist Tsion Girma reported that her efforts to get a comment on the situation from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the North Gonder synods have so far been unsuccessful.
Source: VOA Amharic