Ethiopia has detained two Christian men on charges of "crimes against Islam" in a move that rights activists said was influenced by "radical Muslims", BosNewsLife learned Saturday, June 15.
In late March, local police reportedly detained Alemlayehu Legese, a student at Dodola Mekane Yesus Bible School, for admitting to owning literature that “discussed the history of Islam from a Christian perspective.”
Advocacy group International Christian Concern (ICC), which has contacts in the area, said the arrest came after a Muslim employee at a local shop saw the book and reported him.
Legese remained behind bars Saturday, June 15, with police reportedly saying it was meant to "cool down the anger of local Muslims."
Fellow believer Tamirat Woldegiorgis, a Christian living in Moyale Town, was detained May 25, after being accused by Muslims of writing “Jesus is Lord in a student’s notebook, according to ICC investigators.
EARLIER PRISON TERM
Woldegiorgis was already detained for 22 months, from 2010 to 2012, by local police for “crimes against Islam”, though no such crime exists in the country’s penal code, ICC said.
He was released on June 5 after paying a bail of $5,319, according to trial observers. There was concern over the plight of Legese, with ICC saying he has been held for several months as "police officers treated this incident as if it were a terrorist attack.”
ICC’s Regional Manager for Africa, William Stark, said he was concerned that authorities violate the Ethiopian Constitution and the country’s laws protecting freedom of religion. "Both Tamirat Woldegiorgis and Alemlayehu Legese are being denied that right and have reported being terrorized by their captors because of their Christian faith," he added
"These Christian men are being unlawfully punished for 'crimes against Islam' as interpreted by local police who are being influenced by radical pressures or ideologies.”
It comes amid wider concerns over the spread of Islamic extremism in Africa. Officials did not immediately comment on when and if Legese will be released and future legal steps against the devoted Christians.
(BosNewsLife, the first truly independent news agency covering persecuted Christians, is 'Breaking the News for Compassionate Professionals' since 2004).