ethiopian today press release a hearing of the High Court of Ethiopia on July 6, 2015. As the much anticipated conviction of Muslim civil society leaders (Abubaker Ahmed and 17 others) was underway, it was clear that this was no ordinary trial. Security was beefed up, the public gallery was crowded and the atmosphere was tense. A significant amount of time was spent with the court presenting a detailed defense of the government’s policies on counterterrorism and Muslim-state relations. The court also defended the state’s imposition of the Ahbash sect and, in an odd twist, compared the Ahbash sect to Zoroastrianism in Iran. Given how much time was spent on defending the government’s positions, the morning session made it feel as if the Ethiopian state was on trial and not the other way around. The defendants, who spanned the ideological-denominational spectrum within Islam, were six members of the Ethiopian Muslims Arbitration Committee, 8 prominent Muslim scholars, two journalists, an artist and a student who were exemplary members of society. In December of 2011, this group started as a pressure group, and later a protest movement, to convince the government to terminate its “Ahbashization” project in which the government tried to force the Ahbash sect of Lebanon as the official religion of Ethiopian Muslims. In the weeks and months that followed talks between the Arbitration Committee and the government broke down and the latter took control over Islamic schools and Mosques and started appointing its agents as Imams and teachers. As a reaction, the defendants started the Dimtsachin Yisema (“Let our Voice be Heard”) movement, a religiously based pro-secularism movement which skillfully and effectively deployed methods of nonviolent action. The government’s response to the movement, however, was inhumane and disproportionate to say the least. It rounded up the most prominent protest leaders, tortured them, attempted to shame and defame them on national television, and now convicted them of terrorism. Despite the recent conviction, the peaceful nature of the movement and its leaders and the impropriety of the government’s response have been widely reported including by academics, international organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Committee to Protect Journalists and International Humanist and Ethical Union; and government bodies such as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. Department of State. In a provisional measure issued on behalf of the Committee, the African Commission on Human and Peoples Rights recently asked Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to investigate human rights violations connected with this case and ordered his government to cease ongoing violations.Ethiopia’s government has explained that privatisation of the national airline and state telecommunications company is being done to ease the shortage of foreign currency. Ethiopia announced last week plans to open its state-run telecoms monopoly and state-owned Ethiopian Airlines to private domestic and foreign investment. In an exclusive interview with state broadcaster, Fana BC, Dr. Yinager Desie, Commissioner of the Ethiopian National Planning Commission said lower export performance, failure of mega projects to commence production, high demand for imported goods and growing external debt burden have worsened the shortage of foreign currency. displayAdvert("mpu_3") Ethiopia requires more than $13 billion over the coming two years for oil importation, private investment, upgrading of existing projects and for repayment of external debt. South African telecommunications firms MTN Group and Vodacom Group have already expressed interest in taking up investment options in Ethiopia’s telecom sector as soon as it opens up. Desie says the privatised enterprises would generate large amount of foreign currencies to tackle shortage. The commission will therefore give priority to foreign companies in privatising the enterprises as government’s decision is targeted obtaining foreign currency.