Ethiopia said Thursday that it wants Andargachew Tsige, a prominent figure in an outlawed opposition group, extradited from Yemen, where he was arrested last week. The government in Addis Ababa has accused Andargachew of plotting terror attacks in Ethiopia, a charge routinely levied against critics of the country's leadership.
International rights groups say the Horn of Africa country is using broad anti-terrorism legislation to crack down on dissent and media freedoms. Addis Ababa denies the charge.
Government spokesman Getachew Reda called Andargachew "a criminal," vowing that he would "have his day in court."
Andargachew, secretary general of Ginbot 7 — also known as the Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy — was arrested while on a stopover in Yemen's capital Sanaa on June 23, as he traveled to Eritrea, according to a statement from the group.
Yemeni authorities said Andargachew, who is a naturalized British citizen of Ethiopian origin, was held because his name was "on a list," but gave no further details.
Getachew said it would be "the right thing" if Yemen extradited Andargachew because of his connection to Ginbot 7, which Ethiopia's government has declared a terrorist organization.
But Ginbot 7 said Andargachew was detained illegally and called for his release.
"The Yemeni government doesn't have any right to detain Andargachew, even for an hour," the statement read.
The U.S.-based Ginbot 7 says it is fighting for democracy and freedom in Ethiopia, and has called for the overthrow of the ruling party.
The group implored Yemen not to extradite Andargachew, who they called a "freedom fighter," because international human rights law protects all persons from forcibly being sent to a country where "they would be in danger of being subjected to torture and extra-judicial killings."
Andargachew was part of a group of opposition leaders who in 2012 were sentenced in absentia to prison sentences ranging from 15 years to life on the charge of conspiring to topple Ethiopia's government.
Ginbot 7 leader, former Addis Ababa Mayor Berhanu Nega, who was also sentenced in absentia to life in prison, lives in exile in the U.S.
Al Jazeera and wire services