Former Norfolk State University Professor Convicted of Treason in Ethiopia: His Crime Was Winning a Seat in Parliament for the Opposition Party

Yacob Hailemariam, who served on the faculty at Norfolk State University in Virginia for more than 20 years, returned to his native Ethiopia in 2005 to run for parliament. He was elected along with a host of other reform politicians. But Prime Minister Meles Zenawi stripped the reform politicians of power in the new government. Supporters of the reform movement took to the streets in protest. More than 200 people were killed in riots that followed.

Hailemariam and 37 of his colleagues were arrested and charged with treason and genocide. Earlier this month he was convicted of these charges and is now waiting to learn if he will be executed or sent to prison for the rest of his life.

Ethiopia has been an ally of the Bush administration in its war on terrorism, so it appears that the U.S. government is unwilling to strain relations with the Zenawi government by interceding on Hailemariam’s behalf.

Hailemariam’s family remains in Virginia lobbying for the U.S. government and the international community to come to his aid. Readers can follow developments in the case at