HC Deb 07 November 1955 vol 545 cc1472-3
46 and 47. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (1) what were the charges made by the Ethiopian Authorities against Mohammed Begorreh, Chief Local Authority of Hargeisa and a British protected person, in his trial at Jig Jigga; and what reason has been given for his transference for further trial to Harar in Ethiopia;

(2) whether he will ensure that the British liaison officer for the Haud will be present at the trial in Harar of Mohammed Begorreh, Chief Local Authority of Hargeisa and a British protected person.

Mr. Turton

Mohammed Begorreh was arrested on Ethiopian territory on 4th October and was charged in the Ethiopian local court at Jig Jigga with membership of an unlawful secret society and abuse of the Emperor of Ethiopia. After representations by our Representatives, the case was transferred to the Provincial Court at Harar. Mohammed Begorreh was himself transferred to Harar on 1st November and was brought up in the Provincial Court on 2nd November. The charge was then reduced to one of "breaking the law." He was offered bail and pleaded not guilty.

The right of the British liaison officer to attend the trial, which exists under the Anglo-Ethiopian Agreement of 1954, has been specifically acknowledged in this case by the Ethiopian authorities, and the assistant liaison officer in the area concerned will attend the trial. Mohammed Begorreh has refused an offer by Her Majesty's Consul, Harar, of assistance in arranging his defence and is engaging a lawyer privately. His trial is to take place on the 19th of November.

Mr. Johnson

Is the Minister aware that the Ethiopians are picking up many others beside Mohammed Begorreh, often without any pretext and without making any charge? They have kept some in jail in Harar for at least 12 months before trial. Will the Minister give an assurance that the liaison officer will be there and that he will do his best to cause the cessation of what to many seems uncivilised behaviour on the part of the Ethiopians?

Mr. Turton

Action was taken by Her Majesty's Representative and the liaison officer, and the assistant liaison officer will be present at the trial.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Is the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) aware that one could not hear a single word of his question? I do not know whether the mechanics of the Chamber are operating, but none of the hon. Member's question could be heard in this part of the Chamber at all.

Mr. Elwyn Jones

Has this gentleman, Mr. Begorreh, been given any particulars of the charge of breaking the law?

Mr. Turton

I gather that the charge of breaking the law is a holding charge under Ethiopian practice.