Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed releases prominent political prisoners
ADDIS ABABA – A few days after calling for national reconciliation, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the release of his fierce critics, mostly from his court in Oromia, who blamed the assassination of popular musician Hachalu Hundesa.
Members of the Oromo Federalist Congress [OFC] were arrested after staging protests against Hundesa’s assassination. The protests blocked Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, leading to repression.
Among those arrested were media entrepreneur Jawar Mohammad, Bekele Gerba, Dejene Tafa, Hamza Borana and many others who were arrested at the premises of the Oromia cultural center in Addis Ababa on June 30, 2020, a day after the murder. by Hachalu Hundessa.
Although some were eventually released, a total of 35 people, including Bekele Gerba’s children, were arrested that day. The government was silent on the arrest until Friday, when the government chose to release them.
Prior to their release, they went to a preliminary hearing as the prosecutor laid charges against 20 defendants in Jawar Mohammed’s case in September 2020. The charges include ten counts in violation of Proclamation No. 1176 / 2012 on the prevention and control of terrorism; Telecom Fraud Proclamation No. 761/2004 and Arms Management and Control Proclamation No. 1177/2012, reports Addis Ababa Standard.
The trial of the defendants in the Jawar Mohammed case was one of the most anticipated hearings with symbolic resistance from supporters, arrests and attacks on families, massive campaigns on social media, refusal of the defendants to appear. .
In February last year, protests erupted in different parts of Oromia regional state. Protesters who took to the streets of Ambo and other places raised several demands, including the release of Oromo politicians, a resident of the city told Addis Standard at the time.
Many students have been arrested and beaten by police according to eyewitnesses. In January 2020, the defendants refused to proceed to the hearing to protest with a hunger strike against the arrest of around 80 of their supporters at the premises of the Federal High Court, branch of Lideta.
On February 5, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Chief Commissioner Daniel Bekele said that “very close monitoring is needed to avoid any serious threat to their health and life and that Reasonably justified demands of prisoners must be met “.
He added that “during visits to prisons or during court hearings, visitors should be treated properly.” USAID Administrator Samantha Power and Representative Ilhan Omar also raised concerns about the deteriorating health of the prisoners, who were on hunger strike, and their treatment by the government.
The release of the defendants in the Jawar Mohammed case follows the release of Eskinder Nega, founder of the opposition Balderas for Genuine Democracy, and the defendants in his case who faced terrorism charges, and five of the 20 senior TDF leaders who have been accused of organizing an illegal group to overthrow the constitutional order.
In his Christmas [Gena] message, Abiy Ahmed insisted on national reconciliation as the country grapples with a series of internal crises. The Tigray conflict has eroded confidence in the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
“This will allow us to maintain our unity, it is obvious that Ethiopia will benefit from reconciliation,” the Prime Minister’s message read. In a separate message, the prime minister said he is committed to establishing transitional justice so that those who commit crimes are held accountable.
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