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How a small protest in Australia has had major repercussions in Africa. -

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NEWS READER (June 2016): A man was attacked and police forced to use capsicum spray during a violent protest at Epping this afternoon.

SHUKRI SHAFE, FORMER JUDGE, ETHIOPIA: Yep, that's me.

KERRY BREWSTER, REPORTER: What are people shouting?

SHUKRI SHAFE: "Down, shame on you, shame on you."

KERRY BREWSTER: Shukri Shafe drove from Canberra to Melbourne, intent on shutting down a public meeting for the visiting Ethiopian VIPs.

The protesters succeeded. The meeting was cancelled.

But not before one visiting delegate called out.

SHUKRI SHAFE: That's the guy. That person with the blue suit. Yep, that's him. That's the man. We grow up together. Calling me, saying, hey, Shukri, and I looked at him. And I said hey.

And he said, give me 15 minutes then I will punish you. I said, hey are you dreaming? This is Australia. I'm an Australian. This is a free country, a democratic country. This is not Ethiopia.

And he said in another way, in another way, I will punish you.

And give me 15 minutes and I will show you in 15 minutes you will come under my feet, begging me.

KERRY BREWSTER: After the protesters disbanded, Shukri received a phone call from Ethiopia.

SHUKRI SHAFE: On the phone call was telling me, my mother has been taken away by men in a military uniform.

My sister, which is a mother of 10, three of my brothers have been arrested on the same day.

ELAINE PEARSON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: So we have spoken to 10 protesters and in total, they think 32 relatives were rounded up and detained, and many of those people remain in detention.

So Australia really needs to be lobbying the Ethiopian government at the highest levels to account for the whereabouts of these people and to make sure that all of them have been released.

I think also the Australian Government needs to be very careful about who it lets into this country.

KERRY BREWSTER: Closed off from the world, Ethiopia's Somali Regional State has for 15 years fought a low level insurgency, led by this group, the ONLF.

Human rights organisations and foreign governments have conducted investigations of civilian massacres and other abuses by security forces.

ELAINE PEARSON: We've documented crimes against humanity, war crimes on the part of the Ethiopian government security forces. They have committed acts of killing, rape, looting villages, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

So the president of the Somali Regional State, Abdi Illey is himself at a person with a very controversial human rights record.

During the period that we documented crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Somali Regional State, he was actually the head of security. So he was responsible for those security forces.

And instead of being demoted for those abuses, he was actually promoted and in 2010, he became the president of that region.

KERRY BREWSTER: None of the investigations has led to the indictment or prosecution of Abdi Illey.

When Shukri Shafe was a judge in his home state's Supreme Court, Abdi Illey was still head of security.

When Shafe acquitted several people accused of being resistance members, he claims that Abdi Illey came for him.

SHUKRI SHAFE: He hit my mouth, he punched me. Then my lower lip was cracked at that time, on my mouth, it was full of blood, covered with full of blood.

Then other men were like hitting, punching, all those sorts of things.

ELAINE PEARSON: Anyone seen to be acting against the government paid a very heavy price and that means that, you know, judges, lawyers who didn't do the government's bidding were rounded up, detained and in many cases, they were tortured in detention like Shukri was.

SHUKRI SHAFE: He knows that he tortured me in person. He knows my name, he knows my history, he knows everything.

I was in jail for him, directly for him. Just personally for him, for 16 months.

He used to come, sometimes into the prison and visit the prison. And he used to, like, touch up people by himself, in front of us, including me.

KERRY BREWSTER: Do you have any doubts about Shukri's testimony?

ELAINE PEARSON: We have no doubts about Shukri's testimony. We have interviewed numerous victims who have told us how Abdi Illey has been present during executions, during the torture of subjects and how in some cases Abdi Illey has actually participated directly in that torture.

KERRY BREWSTER: Lateline contacted 53-year-old Bishaaro Wacdu, in Minnesota, United States, where she has lived for a year.

She showed us her refugee papers and a picture of her once broken hand, the result she says by Abdi Illey when he was head of security in Somali Regional State.

Bishaaro claims it was Abdi Illey who personally dragged her from her home, accused her of being a resistance sympathiser. She spent seven years in jail.

BISHAARO WACDI (translated): When he took her to the prison, he beat her up continually. In the process, she broke her hand. Her left hand and then, he continued to beat her up and then he instructed the prison guard to beat her and then finally rape her.

KERRY BREWSTER: A court ordered release got Shukri Shafe out of jail. He escaped to Kenya, was interviewed by the UN and given refugee status.

He settled in Australia in 2010, and drives for Uber.

SHUKRI SHAFE: Now I'm a father of three with a very beautiful family and I live safe, I feel safe, thanks to the government and people of Australia.

KERRY BREWSTER: When the delegation including Abdi Illey arrived in June, many in the diaspora were dismayed.

How could the representative of such a cruel administration be given a visa?

Lateline asked the Department of Foreign Affairs, which replied "Australia's privacy laws prevent us from discussing individual visa application cases."

The delegation came to learn about Australia's system of federation. They were welcomed to Parliament House, but according to Human Rights Watch, there was another agenda.

ELAINE PEARSON: On the side, Abdi Illey was holding several meetings with community members, and we understand that was in part to also set up some kind of network of pro-government supporters.

KERRY BREWSTER: Shukri Shafe drove from Sydney to Canberra to confront him at a meeting.

SHUKRI SHAFE: I did want people, the world, the free world, the press, the human rights organisations to know who is he. Who is Abdi Illey?

Abdi Illey and me locked eyes like we've been looking like this. Then from that time, he started moving. He walked out of the meeting place.

KERRY BREWSTER: Shukri Shafe drove to Melbourne to join the protest there.

He says his sister and elderly mother have been released from jail, but the fate of his three brothers is unknown.

That could change, he says, if he accepted the government's terms.

Two weeks after the protests, Somali Regional State TV ran a story featuring demonstrators whose family members, Human Rights Watch believes were arrested as punishment.

The men say they've changed their minds - from supporting the resistance to fully backing the president.

SHUKRI SHAFE: I know where to go. There are people who will receive me. There are people who will tell me what to say. The people who record me, okay? And take that to the government.

So my family, my brothers, my family are hostage.

KERRY BREWSTER: This man, Faysal Ibrahim, appears in the news story too. He's a government supporter who helped to film the item.

Lateline visited his Melbourne home to clarify his role.

Hello, Mr Ibrahim.

Faysal Ibrahim agreed to meet at a nearby shopping centre.

FAYSAL IBRAHIM, ETHIOPIAN GOVERNMENT SUPPORTER: We are here to make some video. The government did not push them or we did not push them to do it. But this was, they just will to do. It's voluntarily.

They did this for themselves. To express people, to express their feeling to government.

Also to express the rest of the members of ONLF to show them that what we were doing was not the right thing.

KERRY BREWSTER: He says that Shukri Shafe should follow suit.

FAYSAL IBRAHIM: The only issue, the only thing that he should make is, he must accept it, the peace and the stability of the region. That's the only issue.

KERRY BREWSTER: Why don't you do what they have done?

SHUKRI SHAFE: Okay, good question. Just recording a video would not be the end. That would not be the last action that they want me to do.

What they want me to do is to follow every single step, they want, so literally, I would be like totally under their control.

This is a path that so many people will go through, unless we close that path.

KERRY BREWSTER: Responding to Lateline, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it had.

STATEMENT FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Made representations to the Ethiopian government regarding the allegations of action against the families of members of the Ethiopian Diaspora".

SHUKRI SHAFE: This is a fight for humanity. It's a fight for the human rights. This needs to just come to an end. We have to fight this.