Canada pressured to cut foreign aid to Ethiopia

Tue Aug 4, 2009 2:53pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's government should consider curbing foreign aid to Ethiopia to express its unhappiness over the case of a Canadian jailed for life in the African country, a lawyer for the man said on Tuesday.

An Ethiopian court jailed Bashir Makhtal on Monday after he was convicted of membership in a rebel group fighting for independence for an ethnically Somali part of the country.

Lorne Waldman, Makhtal's Canadian lawyer, said the charges were baseless and he called on Ottawa to look at its aid to Ethiopia. In 2006-07, the latest period for which figures were available, the assistance totaled C$83 million ($77 million).

"We have a lot of leverage because we provide a very generous aid package to Ethiopia," Waldman told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

"I believe we have the power to influence whatever happens to Bashir Makhtal and we're hopeful the Canadian government will be very forceful in its approaches to the Ethiopians over the next few days," he said.

Makhtal's relatives in Canada, speaking after the sentence was handed down, also called on Ottawa to freeze foreign aid.

Canadian officials did not directly address the possibility of ending aid, saying they were waiting to see what happened with an appeal promised by Makhtal's Ethiopian lawyer.

"This is a hypothetical question linked to the success or failure of the appeal process. We continue to monitor the case closely," said Catherine Loubier, chief spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon.   Continued...