Garuma, publisher of the weekly newspaper Urji, and the paper’s editor Deressa were arrested in Addis Ababa a few days after the publication of a report on the killing by government forces of three alleged members of the outlawed Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The Urji article contradicted the official version of the incident by stating that the three were indeed of the Oromo ethnic group but were not involved with the OLF.
Three weeks later, police arrested Nemera, a journalist with Urji, who had just been appointed the paper’s editor to replace Deressa. It remains unclear what motivated Nemera’s arrest.
In October 1999, Garuma and Deressa were tried and sentenced to a year in jail each for publishing “false information.” Nemera also received the same sentence in February 2000, presumably on the same charge. In addition, the three men were charged with terrorist activities, along with three dozen other members of the Oromo ethnic group, under Article 252 of Ethiopia’s Penal Code. The Article provides that court hearings in such cases be held in secrecy and that convicted terrorists are jailed for at least 15 years. No bail is allowed.