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UN Worker Convicted of Terrorism Charges in Ethiopian Court

An Ethiopian United Nations security officer faces as many as 10 years in prison after he was found guilty of violating anti-terrorism laws for communicating with a leader of a banned rebel group.

Abdirahman Sheikh Hassan will be sentenced on June 22 for participating in the activities of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, as established by wire-tapped phone calls, Judge Mulugeta Kidane said today in Addis Ababa, the capital.

Authorities in the Horn of Africa nation charged Abdirahman in November after he spoke with Sherif Badio, an ONLF leader in Australia, while trying to negotiate the release of two UN World Food Program workers kidnapped by the group.

A UN rights advocate in February criticized Ethiopia’s use of a 2009 anti-terrorism law to jail politicians, aid workers and journalists opposed to the state. The government of Africa’s second-most populous nation says it prosecutes those responsible for breaking the law regardless of their profession.

Phone transcripts show Abdirahman tried to convince the UN workers to say they were abducted by government forces instead of the ONLF, Mulugeta told the Federal High Court’s Third Criminal Bench.

The UN employees went missing in Ethiopia’s Ogaden area along the Somali border after a May 2011 attack on their convoy in which one worker died and another was wounded, according to the UN. The ONLF freed the abducted workers the next month.

Abdirahman said he had one phone conversation with the ONLF during negotiations where he acted as a translator for UN colleagues. The defense evidence was insufficient to disprove the charges, Mulugeta said.

The ONLF has been fighting for greater autonomy in the Ogaden area since 1984.

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