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Ethiopia to release all political prisoners

14 January 2018

Ethiopia's prime minister has announced that the country will free all of its political prisoners, pardon them and close a notorious prison.

Rights groups and opposition groups in Ethiopia had been calling for the release of political prisoners, saying they were arrested on trumped-up charges and were being punished for their points of view. He said he made the decision to allow for political dialogue. "And the notorious prison cell that was traditionally called Maekelawi will be closed down and turned into a museum".

It's a surprising turnaround for a government that has launched a sweeping crackdown on dissent and had not previously admitted that it is even holding political prisoners.

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In this regard, Desalegn reported that the charges against political prisoners facing trial will be eliminated, a measure that in his opinion will 'expand the democratic space for all'.

The unrest had triggered growing friction within the party.

Noting that unity of thought is the basis for practical unity, the leaders said the executive committee had already started to identify problems that need urgent response.

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The demonstrations engulfed much of the restive Oromia and Amhara regions and spread into other parts of the country, leading to a months-long state of emergency that has since been lifted.

Their scope later widened to protest corruption. "We are also calling for investigations into dozens of enforced disappearances that have taken place since 1991 - it is not enough to release some peaceful dissenters while the fate of many others remains unknown".

"This happened due to the violent protests, which witnessed one of the nation's most serious ethnic clashes between the Oromo and the Ethiopian Somali ethnic groups", the prime minister said.

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Hailemariam's announcement Wednesday came after marathon meetings with the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition.

Ethiopia to release all political prisoners