Ethiopia will release all its political prisoners, says PM Hailemariam Desalegn

Ethiopia to close notorious prison camp, release 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'.

Spokesman, Zadig Abraha, insisted the country had no political prisoners and that "some members of political parties and other individuals that have been allegedly suspected of committing crimes and those convicted will be pardoned or their cases interrupted, based on an assessment that will be made".

This is the first time the government has acknowledged holding political prisoners. He did not give further details.

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Almost 700 people died in one bout of unrest during months of protests in 2015 and 2016, according to a parliament-mandated investigation.

Some of the prominent politicians now in custody include opposition leaders Bekele Gerba and Merara Gudina, and several journalists also remain in detention.

"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.

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An independent task force has also been set up to investigate human rights abuses and the handling of prisoners.

The announcement followed soon after the 17-day-long meeting of the executive committee of the ruling party, which was triggered by the country's recent condition. It denies the charge. The demonstrations began in 2015, initially to protest government development plans near the capital, Addis Ababa.

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.

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Hailemariam said a detention facility known as "Makelawi", where rights groups have alleged that torture has taken place, would also be closed down and turned into a museum.

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