Andualem Arage and Eskindir Nega to be released after more than six years in prison
February 8, 2018
The Ethiopian government says it is to release more political prisoners. Fana Broadcasting, pro-government media, cited the Federal government prosecutor, Getachew Ambaye, to report that Eskinder Naga and Andualem Arage are among the prisoners to be released.
In this round, government amnesty board forwarded lists of 746 prisoners, some convicted and others charged whose cases are still in court, to president Mulatu Teshome who has designation to sign on “Amnesty letter” to be sent to prison administration.
417 of the prisoners are to be released from Federal prisons while the remaining are to be released from prisons in different regional states.
The attorney general, Getachew Ambaye, said the 417 prisoners at the Federal level were arrested on grounds of “terrorism, inciting violence, religious extremism, and related convictions.” It is to be recalled that the government extensively employed “anti-terrorism legislation” to detain and prosecute activists, bloggers and politicians in the opposition groups and there have been criticism on government that the legislation was intended to be a legal tool to attack political opponents and curtail freedom of expression, which the regime in power perceived as a threat to power.
As part of government requirement, prisoners to be released will have to go through a training which government calls “tehadiso” (literally renaissance) and receive certification before they step out of the prison grounds as “free men and women”
Eskinder Nega, renowned blogger and journalist, was thrown to prison some six years ago on alleged grounds of “terrorism and inciting violence” and was sentenced to eighteen years in prison. Ethiopians consider him as a prisoner of conscience. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and reputable Human Rights Organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch were criticizing Enkinder’s arrest as an example of Ethiopian government crackdown on Freedom of Expression. While in prison, Eskinder received an award from human rights organizations.
Similarly, Andualem Aragie who was vice-president of Unity for Democracy and Justice, an opposition party, was sent to prison on grounds of “terrorism and inciting violence” charges and was sentenced to eighteen years to prison. While in prison, he was severely beaten and denied right to get proper medical attention. Ethiopians believe that Andualem Aragie’s incrimination was politically motivated by the dominant party in the ruling coalition, Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
At this writing, Eskinder Nega and Andualem Aragie are not yet released.
It has to be noted there are still numerous political prisoners whose names do not seem to be included in the lists of people to be released.
In what is called now Amhara regional state, many Ethiopians are thrown behind bars in connection with the identity question over Wolkait, which was incorporated as part of Tigray after TPLF took control power in Ethiopia in 1991. The arrest in this region is allegedly carried out by TPLF security apparatus but the Ethiopian government claims that the arrest, including prominent champion of Wolkait identity question like Colonel Demeke Zewdu, in Gonder region of Amhara regional state has nothing to do with the Wolkait question.
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