- A court in Somaliland's capital Hargeisa has issued 3-5 year prison term to 30 members of the Ogaden Liberation Front (OLF), a rebel group that fights the Ethiopian government. The rebels were arrested last December for planning attacks against neighbouring Ethiopia, according to a report by the UAE-based Arabic daily 'Al Khaleej' today.
The Somalilander judge stated in his verdict that the men had been convicted of planning to launch attacks against Ethiopia from Somaliland with the aim of "sabotaging the good relations" between the two countries. While no country recognises the Somaliland republic, Ethiopian authorities are cooperating closely with Somaliland.
The judge was quoted by 'Al Khaleej' as saying that five of the convicted had arrived in Somaliland through Djibouti and admitted that they had received military training in the Eritrean cities of Asmara and Mussawa. Eritrea has earlier been accused by Ethiopian authorities of trying to destabilise its southern neighbour.
The Hargeisa court sentenced the five men to five years imprisonment, while the rest were given 3 years. However, the defence lawyer described the sentence as "unfair" and said that he would appeal against the verdict.
Meanwhile, 'Al Khaleej' reported that Elmi Mohammed, the OLF Representative in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, has accused Somaliland authorities of issuing the sentence in order to please Addis Ababa. The OLF is accepted by Somali authorities, which are rivalling Ethiopia and Somaliland in the Horn region.
Mr Elmi was quoted as saying that the Hargeisa authorities had only arrested these OLF men at their work places and not for committing crimes. He further noted that was yet to be informed about the fate of many other OLF members who allegedly had been arrested in Somaliland.
The OLF is one of several groups fighting for greater autonomy of the country's southern Oromo people. The Oromos historically have been a disadvantaged people in Ethiopia and their leaders claim they are still discriminated against. Ethiopia's government holds the OLF to be an illegal separatist rebel group.
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