Ethiopia: Human trafficker Kidane Zekarias escapes his trial

Human trafficker Kidane Zekarias escaped from the federal court in Addis Ababa last Thursday. While he was in the toilet, the Eritrean-born network leader simply exchanged his prison uniform for civilian clothes that an accomplice had left him. And he walked out the door, without alerting anyone. A hard blow for the defenders of migrants that this man, arrested in February 2020 after years of hunting, had enslaved in Libya.
He is a bald, stiff man who appeared regularly before the federal court in Addis Ababa. But Kidane Zekarias was not treated as a prisoner at risk. So his escape did not come as a surprise to Eritrean journalist and refugee activist Meron Estefanos: “Kidane had already tried to buy his freedom. Moreover, the first lawyer he had employed had tried to buy the silence of witnesses: he was arrested. Then it was the turn of a famous Ethiopian singer to try to corrupt his victims: he too was arrested. So obviously, this last attempt was simply the right one. »
Kidane Zekarias is at the head of a very important and very rich criminal network active notably in Ben Walid, the epicenter of the trafficking of African migrants in Libya. Meron Estefanos’ fear is that his escape will discourage victims from testifying. “In the cases of Kidane or Walid Goïtom, another notorious trafficker in prison in Ethiopia, thousands of their victims are in Europe. It is difficult for them to testify in Ethiopia. And with his escape, confidence in the Ethiopian justice system is further weakened. The victims will think it is just a waste of time. If they were tried in Europe, fine. But here, in Ethiopia, they knew he would end up buying his freedom».
According to her, Kidane Zekarias has different passports, Emirati, Eritrean and Ethiopian in particular. His money would be in Dubai, which has no extradition agreement to threaten him. His only way out of Ethiopia, she concludes, is through Kenya.