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Mass protests force Ethiopia to free opposition leader including journalists and bloggers

Including journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage , Bekele Gerba and MORE other political figures suddenly cleared of charges and let out of jail.
Ethiopia has released a senior opposition leaders from prison and dropped all charges against them after demonstrators blocked roads and staged protest rallies in several towns.

Eskinder had been jailed for 18 years and Andualem for life after being accused of links to the banned Ginbot 7 group.

Their case has attracted international condemnation, with Ethiopia’s ally the United States saying it was “deeply disappointed” when the federal supreme court upheld the pair’s conviction in 2013.

The US along with rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have condemned Ethiopia’s use of its terrorism law to go after journalists and opposition figures.

In 2012, Eskinder was awarded the prestigious PEN America’s annual “Freedom to Write” prize.

Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), was arrested in December 2015 after mass protests broke out in the Oromiya region over accusations that farmers were being forced to sell land with scant compensation.
He was held initially on terrorism charges, later reduced to incitement to violence.

“He just walked out of prison. We have confirmed that all charges against him have been dropped,” said Mulatu Gemechu, a member of the OFC’s leadership.
State-affiliated media confirmed Bekele had been freed along with seven other opposition figures and that the charges against him had been dropped. Ethiopia’s information minister was not available for comment.

Bekele’s release came amid a three-day strike across Oromiya province, which surrounds the capital, as well as a mass pardoning of dissidents by the government aimed at reducing unrest that has simmered since 2015.

Nearly 6,000 prisoners have been freed since January, mainly people who had been detained for alleged involvement in unrest in Oromiya, or, to a lesser extent, the Amhara region.

Last month, Bekele was given six months for contempt of court after he and other opposition members sang a protest song during their trial. Had he not been freed, a verdict on his incitement charge would have been handed down on 7 March.

On Tuesday large crowds marched in various towns in Oromiya and roads remained blocked with large stones, including in the towns of Jimma, Woliso and Legetafo.

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