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Ethiopia to Pardon Political Prisoners, Shut Prison

Ethiopia to Pardon Political Prisoners, Shut PrisonEthiopia to Pardon Political Prisoners, Shut Prison

Ethiopia has announced plans to release political prisoners and shutter an infamous prison in the capital, Addis Ababa, in a surprise move the government says aims to “foster national reconciliation”.

The office of the Ethiopian prime minister said charges would be dropped against politicians currently being prosecuted, while political prisoners who are detained will receive pardons, AL Jazeera reported citing Addis Standard magazine.

“Politicians currently under prosecution and those previously sentenced will either have their cases annulled or be pardoned,” AFP news agency quoted Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn as saying on Wednesday.

Desalegn made the announcement alongside other leaders in the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front, the country’s ruling political coalition.

The government also announced it would close the Maekelawi detention facility in Addis Ababa, which has been described as “one of the country’s most notorious police stations”.

“Police investigators at Maekelawi use coercive methods on detainees amounting to torture or other ill-treatment to extract confessions, statements, and other information from detainees,” Human Rights Watch has reported.

The government plans to turn Maekelawi into a “modern museum”, the Addis Standard reported.

The decision was taken “to create the space for a national dialogue and national consensus”, according to the magazine.

The government did not specify which political prisoners, or how many, would be released, and when.

Amnesty International says Ethiopia has engaged in a “crackdown on the political opposition [that] saw mass arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trials and violations of the rights to freedom of expression and association”.

Many of the arrests come in the context of widespread protests by the country’s Oromo people, who number approximately 35 million and constitute Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, since late 2015.

Hundreds of people have been killed after Ethopian security forces cracked down on protesters. After the government declared a state of emergency in the Oromia region, “more than 11,000 people were arrested and detained without access to a lawyer”, Amnesty said.

 

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