Ethiopia says it will free all of its political prisoners

Erika Holt
January 12, 2018

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

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose administration denies crushing peaceful opposition, said the move was meant to "foster national reconciliation".

But the government steadfastly denies that the East African nation has political prisoners.

He added that the goal is to "foster national reconciliation".

In what appears to be a concrete answer to the preoccupations of the public, the Ethiopian government had been undertaking various measures over the past two and half years, which include a large scale anti-corruption investigation and arrest of government officials.

Their scope later widened to protest corruption.

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"The crackdown on the political opposition saw mass arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment, unfair trials and violations of the rights to freedom of expression and association", rights group Amnesty International has said.

Opposition supporters and activists accuse the Ethiopian government of using the detention center to coerce confessions from suspects usually charged under an anti-terror law. Protests continued after the state of emergency was lifted.

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.

It was not immediately clear how many such prisoners were being held across the country, a close US security ally, or when they would be released. They say the detainees should never have been arrested and are being targeted for their political beliefs.

"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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