Ethiopia: Release of hundreds of detainees must lead to freedom for all remaining prisoners of conscience 

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
MEDIA ADVISORY

17 January 2018

Ethiopia releases top opposition figure from prison
By ELIAS MESERET, ASSOCIATED PRESS BURAYU, Ethiopia — Jan 17, 2018, 2:39 PM ET
Opposition leader Merara Gudina, centre, walks with his supporters after his release, in Burayu, Ethiopia, Wednesday, Jan. 17 2018. Ethiopias top opposition figure and hundreds of others were released from prison on Wednesday as part of the governmeThe Associated Press
Opposition leader Merara Gudina, centre, walks with his supporters after his release, in Burayu, Ethiopia, Wednesday, Jan. 17 2018. Ethiopia’s top opposition figure and hundreds of others were released from prison on Wednesday as part of the government’s recent pledge to free detained politicians and “widen the democratic space for all” after the worst anti-government protests in a quarter-century. Gudina led the Oromo Federalist Congress party and was arrested a year ago under the country’s state of emergency after he returned from Europe, where he had briefed European lawmakers on widespread and sometimes deadly anti-government protests. (AP Photo/Elias Meseret)

Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa, who has himself previously spent more than two years in prison in Ethiopia, is available for interviews

The release of opposition politician Merera Gudina and hundreds of other detainees in Ethiopia today must only be a first step towards freedom for all prisoners of conscience in the east African country, said Amnesty International today as 528 detainees were set free from several jails.

“While by all means a welcome step, the release today of Merera Gudina today and other detainees must not be the last. Hundreds of prisoners of conscience continue to languish in jail, accused or prosecuted for legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression or simply for standing up for human rights,” said Netsanet Belay, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for Africa.

“The Ethiopian authorities must now immediately and unconditionally release all remaining prisoners of conscience, including those who have already been convicted, as they did nothing wrong and should never have been arrested in the first place. To continue holding them is to perpetuate the gross injustice that they have already bravely endured for too long,”

“The authorities must also take urgent steps to guarantee that these wrongful detentions do not continue to take place, including by repealing or substantially amending all repressive laws under which most prisoners of conscience are detained, including the draconian Anti-Terrorism Proclamation.”

The releases come after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced plans to release opposition political leaders and hundreds of other individuals and close down Maekelawi Prison in the capital Addis Ababa, a notorious detention center where widespread acts torture were being committed.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please call Amnesty International’s press office in Nairobi on +254 788 343897 or +254 20 428 3020, or emailseif.magango@amnesty.org

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