Three Evangelical Christian men falsely accused of burning down an Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) building in the rural community of Gulema Iyesus have been acquitted and freed.
Tibebu Mekuria (in his 20s), Dawit Jemberu (also in his 20s), and Belete Tilahun (in his 40s) were released on 18 January after a Supreme Court judge acquitted them on 13 January.
The men, who have been in prison since June 2014, were arrested one month after the EOC building burned down, even though witnesses testified that the men were nowhere near the church at the time of the incident.
Tibebu, Dawit and Belete then faced almost three years of flawed court proceedings and delays.
Sadly, as this case shows, in Ethiopia, evangelical Christians can face persecution, threats and intimidation from the Orthodox Church. Christians who choose to move from the orthodox church to the newer protestant churches have been physically attacked.
Ethiopia is number 22 on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List – a ranking of the countries where Christians face the severest persecution.
A Christian-majority nation, although believers can face pressure from the increasingly-authoritarian government and Muslim neighbours in Islamic-dominated regions, the church itself has also been a source of persecution with fanatical elements of the EOC attempting to undermine other denominations.
Source: Open Doors
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