Unofficial Translation of Birtukan Mideksa's "My Word"

January 1, 2009

My Word (December 27, 2008)

After I went to the Office of the Federal Police Commissioner in the afternoon of December 23, 2008, reprimanded, watched the same message broadcast on the Ethiopian Television, it is hard for me to express how I felt.

Even though there is nothing outside what I know and believe that I can say to change this matter, and since the issue has sparked questions among the public, I have decided to write this statement for the issue to be understood. Perhaps, this may be my last statement.

Let me start with the negotiation by the elders; the basic spirit of the negotiation by the elders was to bring about an agreement acceptable to both parties and to create a spirit of reconciliation and to continue the political process. This is why its progress took several months. In this, regarding the problem that was created following the 2005 elections, instead of following the path of making one party wrong and another party right, the country elders mediated with the objective of having each party ask for forgiveness from the people and from each other, presented to both parties points that would bring about a spirit of reconciliation, mediated these points between the parties, toning down the parties' opinions as much as possible, and move forward by proving their determination to their political outlooks on fundamental issues.

Therefore, the negotiation through the elders that was focused on reaching a negotiated agreement through a give and take deal was based on not only a willingness on the part of the government but also through its participation. Even though the government agreed to reaffirm that it would uphold the constitution and compensate the citizens and families who suffered damages in relation to the 2005 elections, as the negotiations continued and the arguments in the court got close to verdict, we heard a sad situation through the coordination of the elders. This was that except the point that we the prisoners would ask the people and the government for forgiveness, the other party was not interested to agree especially on those matters that point to the government. Nonetheless, even at that stage, the spirit of reconciliation to which the negotiation was directed did not change. Therefore, even though other points of agreement were left behind, the elders expressed that if we signed that document which was crafted on the spirit of our country's culture to say to each other let it be settled, the matter would stop at that stage, the file would be closed, and pushed on with their elderly mediation. They affirmed to us that the Prime Minister has said that, verbatim, "if this document is signed, I will use my executive power to stop the court case." In connection with this, agreement was reached "to release all prisoners in the country put in jail in matters related the CUD [Coalition for Unity and Democracy] without preconditions; to start direct discussions between the government and the former CUD leaders; for the parties leaders to continue their party's duties without restrictions." In addition, the document was signed with the affirmation that it would not be used by both parties for any political propaganda, that the document would be signed for the elders, that the elders would write their own letter to the Prime Minister based on this document. In deed, I have never denied signing this document as an individual prisoner. On the basis of the spirit of the elders' reconciliation mediation, thinking to give a political solution to a politically motivated accusation, I have agreed with the other party leaders and asked for pardon through the elders according to the document that was written on June 18, 2007. This is the truth I can't change even if I wish to.

Even though what was expected after this agreement was for the charges to be stopped and the file to be closed according to the Prime Minister's words affirmed to the elders, the process started to take a new shape. The Prosecutor's Office that is led by the Prime Minister did not stop the case. Actually, life sentence was passed on us the prisoners. After that, the story was crafted not based on our agreement, but according to the will of the Prime Minister. The matter went on and came to an end when we were released from prison through the pardon granted to us by the country's president.

Therefore, it is either self-deception or ignorance to try to view such a painted and complex process as a case that was presented in a merely regular legal procedure and concluded accordingly.

According to the law, a defender has to present a pardon request not to the Prime Minister, but to the Pardon Board. In our case, it is the Prime Minister that presented to the Pardon Board the document that we signed for the elders. It is possible to argue that he is the one who asked for the pardon. However, according to the norm of the law, who can ask for pardon is the one who the matter concerns, his or her lawyer, or the family members, not the country's Prime Minister. That the pardon request can be presented following the verdict and judgment of the court is pointed out in the law. In our case, since we didnít have the agreement from the onset to conclude the matter through pardon, the document that was signed for the elders was signed before the court passed the punishment judgment on the matter. Therefore, according to this reality, I have not asked for pardon according to the normal legal procedure. Hence, where is the mistake in saying that I haven't denied signing in its entirety the document that the elders influenced us to sign on June 22, 2007, which became the basis for the pardon given by the president in the end. On what basis is that a crime?

What I spoke in a foreign country expressed and explained this matter and did not contain anything different. I can guess if what I spoke was, perhaps, interpreted inappropriately.

Even if my speech is considered inappropriate, does it lead to going to the police station multiple times without and with notifications? Never; even if it is considered to lead to questioning, how does it invalidate the pardon that was granted by the country's president? Even if it invalidates the pardon, which of its lawful authorities did the federal police use to investigate the matter, give the ultimatum?

On December 10, 2008, the federal police commissioner sent two members of Wereda 12 police to my house and asked my presence at his office, I thought it was to discuss about our party, Unity, and went to his office but I was told that I was asked to be present in relation to the pardon, and the first question I asked when I heard this was what authority the police has on this matter. The answer I got accompanied with a grin was this is not even an academic discussion and it is better for you if you leave behind such kinds of questions. However, the matter that made them smile, be surprised, is what I always live for, stand for, sometimes I am imprisoned for and released, a grand value - the supremacy of law or constitutional government.

I will never learn and cooperate with lawlessness, acting above the law. This is why I did not go to the Police Commissioner's office on December 24, 2008, after he asked me through a messenger without a legal notice to be present at his office once again. However, when I received a legal notice in the afternoon of the same day, I went to his office momentarily; even though when I arrived at his office, what I encountered and what was expressed in the notification were at odds. I was given a sort of scaring order instead of what was expressed in the notification sent to me by the commissioner; I was told that if I did not recant what I said in Sweden within three days, the government would invalidate the pardon and put me in prison.

Who can invalidate the pardon is the head of state not who you call the government which is the executive branch, even if that is the case, there is a process to it. I thought about explaining to the commissioner by saying that after an appeal to invalidate the pardon is presented, the concerned individual should be present within 20 days, and if the Pardon Board agrees with it, the question would be presented to the President, at that point, the pardon may be invalidated; but I didn't do that. I made sure to listen through his speech and left his office without saying anything.

It is my belief that it doesn't appear that I am subjected to all this unlawful order and scaring not because of playing with words, or distorted truth, or a law that was broken. The message is clear; not only for me, but also for all peaceful compatriots. That the possibility to engage in a peaceful and constitutional political struggle is possible not according to the outline in the constitution but only according to the will of the ruling party or individuals. It is very hard for me to submit or say yes to this.

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