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Ethiopia to release all political prisoners, says prime minister

Maekelawi detention facility in the capital, Addis Ababa

(BBC News) — Ethiopia’s prime minister has announced the release all political prisoners and the closure of a notorious detention centre which allegedly used torture to extract confessions.

Hailemariam Desalegn told a press conference charges would also be dropped for those still awaiting trial.

The move is designed to allow political dialogue, he said.

Ethiopia is accused by human rights groups of using mass arrests and detention to stifle opposition.

However, this is the first time the government has admitted to having any political prisoners, previously describing them as “criminals”, BBC Ethiopia correspondent Emmanuel Igunza says.

Campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has accused the government of using anti-terrorism laws to jail its critics.

The exact number of people in detention is not known. However, thousands have been detained since 2015, when there were widespread protests calling for political and economic reforms, prompting a crackdown.

Just days ago, 19 people linked to the Ginbot 7, deemed a rebel group by the government, were jailed on terrorism-related charges.

Wednesday’s announcement included the closure of Maekelawi – a detention facility in the capital, Addis Ababa, which HRW alleged was using illegal interrogation methods back in 2013.

The government denied all allegations of abuses at the centre.

However, it has now decided the prison will become a “modern museum”.

A new detention centre will be opened, Mr Hailemariam said, which would comply with international standards.

It is unclear exactly what prompted the decisions, which came after days of consultations within the ruling coalition, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

However, the privately owned Addis Standard newspaper links it to a day of action across social media at the end of December, raising awareness of the plight of political prisoners.


  1. It is good to hear if it is practical. However, yesterday Thursday in Konso there is Great tragic(heartbreaking) imprisoning news. Leave the past only yesterday more than 90 individuals were chased and thrown to Gidole jail.

  2. God has not given up on Ethiopians.

    God worked therough presdent D. Trump to force the Ethiopian government release political prisioners which it vehmently denied for years that there exists one.

    After Pakinstan and Palestinian authorities, the Ethiopian government with empty coffers was to see U.S. dollar cut, but it acted fast to avert a disaster of governemt collapse and steal the credit from the U.S. to itself.

    I hope the U.S. will not stop with the release of political prisoners and dialoge, but force the government to agree to a transitional government with all the opposition in and out of the country represented to be followed by a free and fair election. It is comforting that God has not forgotten the people and gave us an ally – the U.S.

    It is to be recalled that the U.S. has made clear those states which voted against the U.S. in the U.N. and the Security Council on its decision to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will face consequences. Now it has has started to make its promise true. See what Pakistan and Palestinian authorities are facing.

    Ethiopia voted against the U.S. both at the U.N. and the Security Council on the embassy issue. The Israel-Palestine issue and U.S. position aside, U.S. move to force the Ethiopian government rlease political prisioners and engage in a dialogue is a decision led by The Divine Himself which worked through the U.S. It is intended to end the suffering of the Ethiopian people.

    Than you God for the intervention and bless those who reach out to others at the moment of their suffering.

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