Africa

Ethiopia releases 63 prisoners ahead of elections

Move to foster efforts toward bringing about national consensus, attorney general's office says

Addis Getachew Tadesse   | 26.02.2020
Ethiopia releases 63 prisoners ahead of elections

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia 

The Ethiopian government has released 63 prisoners amid pressure by ethnic-based groups ahead of elections this year.

Zinabu Tunu, the attorney general's spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday that the suspects were involved in high profile corruption, misdemeanor or rights violations, among other counts.

Those released are among the 1,682 people arrested for various crimes since the coming to power in April 2018 of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who reformed the economy, military, security and other areas of life in the country.

The spokesman said cases were filed against more than 3,600 people and many remain at large.

This includes, Getachew Assefa, a ghost-like figure who led the national intelligence service for decades during the 28-year rule by the now dissolved Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front -- a four party coalition led by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. This era was marked by severe human rights violations and high profile corruption.

Getachew is suspected of hiding in Tigray region, from where he hails.

On numerous occasions, Abiy has said that “wanted criminals” were hiding in their respective communities.

The state-owned Ethiopian News Agency quoted Zinabu as saying that the government dropped the charges against the stated number of suspects not because they did not commit crimes, but to foster efforts toward bringing about national consensus.

Among the suspects whose cases have been dropped is the famous entrepreneur and founding member of Zemen Bank, Edmias Amelga, who was suspected of business-related crimes.

Edmias had also been engaged in a large housing scheme that went bankrupt, causing panic among those who paid down payments.

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