Ethiopia to close notorious prison camp, release political prisoners
12 January, 2018, 23:40
Desalegn also disclosed the shutting down of the notorious detention center, known as Maekelawi, which had been serving as Ethiopia's main investigation center since the Derg regime.
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.
Several dissident politicians have since been jailed having been charged with involvement in terrorism and collusion with the secessionist Oromo Liberation Front, which the government has branded a terrorist group.
He added that the goal is to "foster national reconciliation".
Desalegn said the move would bring some respite to the two years of anti-government protests in Oromia, the largest and most populous region in the country.
The government in Addis Ababa has been denying imposing political restrictions.
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The Ethiopian government, in its response to the public anger, had reshuffled majority of its senior officials and ministers soon after the declaration of the state of emergency back in October 2016.
It remains unclear how many political prisoners are being held in the country or when they will be released.
The decision responds to accusations by human rights groups that the detainees were allegedly tortured for opposing the current administration.
"Today's announcement could signal the end of an era of bloody repression in Ethiopia", Amnesty International researcher Fisseha Tekle said in a statement calling for prisoners' immediate and unconditional release.
"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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