Ethiopia to release opposition figures

Ethiopia to release opposition figures

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA-Ethiopia's government says comments by the prime minister on Wednesday that appeared to refer to the planned release of political prisoners instead referred to imprisoned politicians.

The PM said that the government has reached to a decision to release politicians in a bid to create better national consensus and widen the country's political space.

The Prime Minister said charges will be dropped for all "political prisoners" who are now under prosecution and pardons will be issued to all who have already been convicted and are serving their sentences in order to create the space for a national dialogue and national consensus.

"Also, the notorious prison cell that was traditionally called Maekelawi, will be closed down and turned into a museum".

Rallies over land rights then broadened into demonstrations over political restrictions and perceived rights abuses, including the incarceration of Merera Gudina and Bekele Gerba - leaders of the opposition group the Oromo Federalist Congress.

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The unrest involving the country's two most populous regional states of Oromia and Amhara led to an imposition of martial law in October 2016 which was only lifted in August 2017.

"Potentially big news", Human Rights Watch researcher Felix Horne said on Twitter after the announcement, as some observers waited to see the government's next move.

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

Ethiopia's ruling party, in a statement issued after its evaluation last week, affirmed its full commitment to address the challenges faced by the country and to ensure the sustainability of the gains made so far.

"That's very symbolic - whenever you think of torture, you think of Maekelawi", said Soleyana Gebremichael, the director of the Ethiopia Human Rights Project in Washington.

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