ADDIS ABABA (BBC News)―Ethiopia’s prime minister has announced the release all political prisoners and the closure of a notorious detention center which allegedly used torture to extract confessions.
Prime Minister 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.
The country declared a state of emergency in 2016, following a year of protest calling for political and economic reforms, which prompted a crackdown.
Mr. Hailemariam’s announcement included the closure of Maekelawi – a detention facility at the center of the torture allegations, which have been denied by the government.
"በአቃቢ ህግ ጉዳያቸው ተይዞ በእስር የሚገኙና የተፈረደባቸው የተለያዩ ፖለቲከኞችም ሆነ ሌሎች ግለሰቦች የተሻለ ሃገራዊ መግባባት ለመፍጠርና የዲሞክራሲ ምህዳሩን ለማስፋት በማሰብ ክሳቸው ተቋርጦ ወይም በምህረት እንዲፈቱ ተወስኗል::"
— Office of the PM of #Ethiopia (@PMOEthiopia) January 3, 2018
According to Ethiopian newspaper Addis Standard, the prison will become a “modern museum”.
A new detention center 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 Addis Standard links it to two days of action across social media at the end of December, raising awareness of the plight of political prisoners.
Continue reading this story at BBC News
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