Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Feds assisting family of city man jailed in Ethiopia - Winnipeg Free Press

THE Canadian government is looking into the case of a Winnipeg man jailed in Ethiopia, while his friends and family in Transcona worry and wonder how to help.
Fewaz Hargaaya, 26, was arrested earlier this month on a visit to the country he fled as a five-year-old with his family.
Fewaz Hargaaya
He was arrested for having walkie-talkies and held because he is Oromo, an ethnic group struggling for self-determination. After his arrest, police found sponsorship documents he brought from Canada that are critical of the Ethiopian government's treatment of its people. His sister, Iftu, who lives in Winnipeg, said the government has accused him of being involved with the Oromo Liberation Front.
The man's family hasn't been able to contact him since he was locked up in Dire Dawa in one of Ethiopia's notorious prisons.
The Canadian government is trying to help.
"The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Affairs is aware of the detention of a Canadian citizen in Ethiopia," said spokesman Claude Rochon in Ottawa. "Consular officials in Addis Ababa and in Ottawa are providing consular assistance to the family."
Rochon wouldn't comment further because of privacy regulations.
After reading about Hargaaya's plight Tuesday, school friends from Transcona were upset.
"He was just a great guy, super-friendly all the time," said Randi Dewar, who attended Murdoch MacKay Collegiate. She was contacted by several people concerned about the young man they grew up with in Transcona, and got in touch with the Free Press.
"For something like this to happen is absolutely shocking," she said. "In Transcona, everyone knows everyone and people want to help."
For now, there is nothing anyone can do.
Someone from the Canadian consulate in Ethiopia has been given permission to see him in jail, but not until "sometime next week," said Janine Legal, a friend of Fewaz's mother.

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