In Ethiopia, three unjustly imprisoned evangelical Christians are bringing fellow inmates to Christ as they await the final verdict on their case. The three men are imprisoned on charges of arson relating to the burning of an Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC) building in May, 2014.
Dawit Jemberu, Tibebu Mekuria and Belete Tilahun deny that there is any connection between them and the burning of the building. Dawit and Tibebu were arrested on arson charges a month after the fire occurred, and Belete on accusations of financially supporting the attack.
In their first hearing, multiple witnesses testified that the men were not anywhere near the building at the time of the fire. Their lawyer noted that the witness brought by the prosecution presented an inconsistent testimony that contradicted itself. Nonetheless, on Oct. 28, 2014 all of the men were found guilty, based on the one inconsistent witness testimony. Dawit and Tibebu face nine years, and Belete eight years. They appealed.
In November, the ruling was upheld, after which their lawyer appealed to a higher court. The following month, their appeal was again rejected, prompting their lawyer to appeal to the Federal Supreme Court. The hearing has been postponed twice, and is currently scheduled for Oct. 23, 2015.
Despite the fact that they are still in the appeals process, the men have been ordered to pay over $50,000 in a lawsuit against them claiming compensation for damages related to the fire.
Two of them, Dawit and Tibebu, have no property that can be seized, but Belete, who is married with three children, may lose everything he owns.
“I am worried that my family will be thrown out onto the streets. They want to destroy my life and the property I have labored for all my life,” he said.
However, even while facing years in prison and the loss of worldly possessions, the three believers have not lost faith, and continue to evangelize to those around them in prison. A brazen criminal and another inmate have come to faith in Jesus Christ through their witness. When one of the converts asked for a Bible, the three Christians gave him the only one they had in their possession.
“Maybe this is why God wants us here,” they said.
Dawit and Tibebu have more or less accepted their nine year sentences, and have requested assistance in beginning theological studies.
A recent visitor reports: “They have been very encouraged to hear that people around the world know what is happening to them. They have been praying that the Ethiopian government would ensure justice for them, praying that it would keep with its constitution which guarantees a fair trial for all its citizens and equal treatment under the law no matter their creed.”
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Publication date: August 4, 2015