World News

Ethiopia will release all its political prisoners, says PM Hailemariam Desalegn

Ethiopia will release all its political prisoners, says PM Hailemariam Desalegn

Desalegn also disclosed the shutting down of the notorious detention center, known as Maekelawi, which had been serving as Ethiopia's main investigation center since the Derg regime.

This is the first time the government has acknowledged holding political prisoners.

Hailemariam Desalegn, the country's prime minster, issued the order, as part of what he said was an effort "to create a national consensus and widen the democratic space for all".

He added that the goal is to "foster national reconciliation".

Ethiopia has faced more than two years of anti-government protests with demonstrators calling for political and economic reforms, which prompted a crackdown and thousands of arrests.

The government in Addis Ababa has been denying imposing political restrictions.

Rights group Amnesty International said the decision could signal the "end of an era of bloody repression".

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The Ethiopian government, in its response to the public anger, had reshuffled majority of its senior officials and ministers soon after the declaration of the state of emergency back in October 2016.

Hailemariam's announcement Wednesday came after marathon meetings with the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition.

It was not immediately clear how many such prisoners were being held across the country, a close USA security ally, or when they would be released.

Rights groups and opposition groups in Ethiopia had been calling for the release of political prisoners, saying they were arrested on trumped-up charges and were being punished for their points of view.

Ethiopia's government has attempted to downplay the prime minister's announcement.

Tekle says that for years, the Maekelawi detention center "essentially functioned as a torture chamber, used by the Ethiopian authorities to brutally interrogate anybody who dares to dissent including peaceful protestors, journalists and opposition figures".


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