Ethiopia: More than 4,000 prisoners released by fear of coronavirus

The Ethiopian government on Wednesday announced an amnesty and the upcoming release of more than 4,000 prisoners to make way for overcrowded prisons and faces the risk of the spread of the new corona virus.

Justice Minister Adanech Abebe told state media that the measure would affect more than 4,000 prisoners, most of whom are jailed for “minor crimes” or for drug use and who are less than a year old to be served before his sentence.

“Given the nature of the transmission of the virus and to stop the overpayment in prisons, the proceedings against 4,011 prisoners have been dropped and they have been granted amnesty,” the minister said, adding that they would later be released on Thursday.

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Living conditions in Ethiopian prisons are “harsh and life-threatening” for prisoners, the US State Department said in its latest report on human rights worldwide.

These facilities are facing “congestion” as well as an “inadequate hygiene and care system,” according to the report.

On March 24, Ethiopia confirmed the cases of 12 people positive for the new coronavirus.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has implemented several measures to prevent the spread of the virus, including closing boundaries and limiting the number of passengers on public transport.

But his calls to practice social distance have been followed a little, with big rallies continuing to be formed in the capital Addis Ababa for religious ceremonies or other events.

Ethiopia has not taken any of the containment measures seen in many other countries.

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