Ethiopia to free 746 prisoners including a journalist and senior opposition officials

Addis Ababa, February 09, 2018 (GMN) - Ethiopia Ethiopia will release 746 more prisoners, including a journalist and a senior opposition official who was jailed for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, the attorney general’s office said Thursday.

The decision follows a series of changes announced by the government to try to reduce tension in Ethiopia, which has been hit by unrest since 2015.

Nearly 6,000 prisoners have been freed since January. Most were detained in connection with mass protests that broke out three years ago in the country’s Oromia and Amhara regions, where people have complained that they have been neglected by the central government and victimized by land grabbing.

On Thursday, the attorney general’s office published a list of 746 inmates for pardon, including the journalist Eskinder Nega and the opposition politician Andualem Arage.

The names of the prisoners have been forwarded to President Mulatu Teshome, who has the power to grant their freedom, the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporation said.

Ethiopia, sandwiched between war-torn South Sudan and Somalia, is frequently rebuked by human rights groups for cracking down on dissent under the guise of national security concerns.

The government rejects the accusations.

Since 2015, hundreds of people have been killed in the country’s largest province, Oromia, and to a lesser extent in Amhara, as protests broadened into demonstrations against political restrictions and human rights abuses.

Mr. Nega, a blogger, and journalist was arrested in 2011 and accused of trying to incite violence with a series of online articles. He was sentenced to 18 years.

In the same case, Mr. Arage, a member of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice Party, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Both were among a group of 20 people on trial. Among the others were five exiled journalists who were sentenced in absentia to prison terms of 15 years to life.

It was not immediately clear whether the other members of that group were being pardoned. Source:  (Reuters)