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

Ethiopia to free all political prisoners

Rights group Amnesty International said the decision could signal the "end of an era of bloody repression". Martin Plaut is a journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, and senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

But the government steadfastly denies that the East African nation has political prisoners.

"Political prisoners that are facing prosecutions and are already under arrest will be released", Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said at a press conference, according to The Associated Press.

Desalegn also disclosed the shutting down of the notorious detention center, known as Maekelawi, which had been serving as Ethiopia's main investigation center since the Derg regime.

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

Its 547-seat parliament does not have a single opposition politician in it, and opposition groups accuse the government of constant harassment and intimidation.

"A new chapter for human rights will only be possible if all allegations of torture and other ill-treatment are effectively investigated and those responsible brought to justice".

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.

The move comes in the wake of widespread anti-government protests that engulfed much of the restive Oromia and Amhara regions and other towns and cities.

"It was absolutely not clear what the prime minister was saying", said Yacob Hailemariam, a lawyer in Addis Ababa, the capital. Human Rights Watch had alleged that Maekelawi, a detention facility in Addis Ababa, was used to conduct illegal interrogation methods in 2013.

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