The Ethiopian federal high court has accused 17 individuals of abducting at least 16 Amhara students who were fleeing ethnic-based clashes in Dembi Dolo University in November last year.
Seven of the suspects appeared before the federal court on Friday and according to the prosecutor all the suspects, largely members of the rebel Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), are charged on crimes of terrorism.
Two months ago, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told the parliament that the government was not sure if the students were taken hostages despite outcry from families and people in the Amhara region.
The charges indicated 16 students namely Monmon Belay, Tenalem Mulate, Samrawit Kere, Asabie Ayel, Tigist Mesay, Belaynesh Mekuannt, Sirgut Gete, Wude Girmaw, Girmawush Yeneneh, Askalu Yemata, Girma Habte, Bitewelegn Atnafu, Gebresilassie Molla, Gedefu Genet, Meselech Kefyalew and Zemede Berhan were kidnapped by members of the rebel group.
Among the suspects accused of kidnapping the students are Kelifa Abdurhaman, Redwan Temam, Abdu Ibrhaim, Awelu Jibril and Yesuf Jeraata, all members of the rebel OLF.
According to the charges, the abduction took place in Kelem Wellega zone - Eseye and Anfelo districts - Sudi and Minko localities. It said the suspects who were armed had driven the students out of a car (Dolphin) and drove them into the nearby jungle.
The charges further indicated that leaders of the armed group namely Getachew Yonas, Jalol Jie, Jal Gote, Duguma Ibssa, and Ibssa Fufa had held discussions about the abduction at Mata locality in Kellem Wellega.
The prosecutor said the 17 suspects handed over the hostages to their superiors named Jal Mero, Jal Roba, Jal Gurara, Jal Urdi, Jal Fendish, and others whose names are not known.
Tefera Hika, a member administrative body in the zone, is also accused of failing to communicate with the concerned security unit even though he witnessed the abduction.
The suspects are charged with anti-terrorism law proclamation number 652/2001 sub-article 3 on abduction and terror acts.
Of the 17 suspects, police have detained ten of them; one of them was released on bail. On Friday, two suspects did not appear before the court on Friday on suspicion of contracting coronavirus.
It is not clear if the police have located the whereabouts of the students and adequate information if they are alive.
It is recalled that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have been calling for the release of the students since their abduction back in November last year.
The court adjourned the hearing to August 6, 2020.