ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Nov 12 – Ethiopia has arrested 63 senior military and intelligence officers accused of corruption and human-rights abuses, the country’s attorney general, Berhanu Tsegaye, said Monday.
The arrests are a rare move against the country’s powerful security apparatus.
They represent a further flexing of power by reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is seeking to break with Ethiopia’s authoritarian past, analysts said.
“Twenty-seven officials have been arrested for alleged corrupt practices, while 36 have been detained for alleged human rights abuses, with a manhunt underway for remaining suspects,” Berhanu said at a press conference.
Berhanu did not name any of the suspects but said some had already been taken to court.
He said the suspected corruption occurred at the military-run Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC).
“METEC officials were involved in purchases of $2 billion (1.8 billion euros) worth of goods without any bidding process,” Berhanu said.
He pointed out that the company had been involved in the construction of Ethiopia’s immense, signature Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Abiy made an unusual public admission earlier this year that security officials had engaged in abuses and torture with impunity.
On Monday, Berhanu outlined some of the allegations of abuse committed at secret prisons in the capital Addis Ababa and elsewhere.
“Detainees were subjected to various abuses including gang rapes, sodomy, prolonged exposure to extreme heat and cold, waterboarding and deprivation of sunlight,” he said.
Berhanu also provided a brief update on the case of a grenade explosion at a June rally addressed by Abiy that left two people dead, saying that an unnamed intelligence officer was suspected of involvement.