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Ethiopia denies holding political prisoners as opposition calls for release

Ethiopia News
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
Source: Sudan Tribune
June 3, 2013

Addis Ababa – A newly founded opposition coalition, Semeyawi (Blue) party on Sunday hold demonstration in Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa calling for the immediate release of detained political prisoners.

Thousands of opposition members and supporters chanted; “We demand freedom”; “We demand justice”; and “release jailed political prisoners”.

Protesters demanded the release of detained opposition members, journalists activists and Muslim leaders who they alleged were jailed on terrorism charges.

Speaking to Sudan Tribune, Ethiopia’s government spokesperson, Shimels Kemal, denied that the East African country is holding political prisoners.

He said most of the protesters on Sunday were Muslims who had hidden agendas.

“Most of the protesters were Muslims who went out in the pretext of political rally” he said adding “their move has exhibited a serious encroachment”.

Addis Ababa has long been a scene of protests by Muslims who accuse government interference in their religious affairs, an allegation the government denies.

The rare demonstration held on Sunday was first planned to be held during the Africa Union summit which was concluded last week.

Organizers alleged to Sudan Tribune that they were prevented from staging the demonstration during the continental summit.

The Ethiopian official however said protesters demanded to hold public demonstration at the gates of the AU headquarters where African leaders and thousands of other participants from across the world were gathering.

“They were only asked to postpone their demonstration for security matters and they have then agreed” Shimels said.

Opposition officials told Sudan Tribune that they will return to the streets unless the Ethiopian government meets their demands within three months.

“If the government failed to responded accordingly we will continue to stage demonstrations”.

With regard to future demonstrations Shimels said citizens can exercise their constitution rights.

He went into saying that “future demonstrations are not a concern to [the] government”.

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