February 14, 2018
Ethiopian government released today Andualem Arage, Eskinder Nega, Kinfemichael Abebe (Abebe Kesto) and Ahmedin Jebel along with seven hundred forty-two other political prisoners at the federal and regional levels.
Andualem Arage, a politician who was serving as secretary of Unity for Democracy and Justice which is now defunct, and journalist Eskinder Nega were arrested on alleged grounds of “terrorism” and inciting violence to overthrow the federal government unconstitutionally and were sentenced for eighteen years in jail. They have been in jail for more than six years.
Members of Ethiopian Muslim representative committee who were thrown to prison a few years ago on trumped-up charges of “religious fundamentalism” are also released today. They were thrown into prison after they resisted what Ethiopian Muslim say is interference in their right to worship as the government moved to make the leadership loyal government cadres rather than independent spiritual leaders. As well, the imposition of new faith (“Ahbash”) and administration of Islamic school in the capital, Awuliah, were among the contentious issue that gave rise to the resistance of Ethiopian Muslims.
While many Ethiopians are elated that politicians and journalists are walking out of prison, they do not seem to be forgetful of the fact that released politicians and journalists were not supposed to be in prison in the first place. And the government is not getting any credit for that as most of the popular demands, including an end to what many Ethiopians consider to be TPLF government.
When the ruling coalition in Ethiopia, Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), completed executive committee meeting, which was necessitated as a result of the ongoing political crisis in Ethiopia, it passed the decision to release political prisoners in order to “broaden democratic space” and to promote “national consensus.”
However, the ruling coalition leadership exhibited an unwillingness to release all political prisoners. Andualem Arage, Eskinder Nega, and Kinfemichael Abebe were meant to be released last week. However, the ruling party leadership ordered, through prison authorities, them to sign a false confession saying that they were members of Ginbot 7, an outlawed opposition movement. But they refused to sign the confession, and today they are walking out of prison without signing it.
Kinfemichael Abebe’s mother told the VOA Amharic service this week that she was happy that her son and his friends did not sign the false confession even if they were not released.
A huge crowd showed up at Kaliti prison, in the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa, to welcome released politicians and Ethiopian Muslim Committee members.
Bekele Gerba, Oromo Federalist Congress Secretary who was released yesterday, told Voice of America Amharic Service that the number of political prisoners released is insignificant compared to the number of political prisoners who are still behind bars.
There are reports that Wubeshet Taye, Mamushet Amare,Albana Lelisa, Zerihun Gebregziabheir, Berhanu Tekleyared, Chaltu Takele and Andualem Alayew, all political prisoners, are said to be released today.
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