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Breaking: Eskinder Nega, colleagues released, senior Justice Ministry officials visit Kality prison

Addis Abeba – Eskinder Nega, founder of the opposition Balderas for Genuine Democracy, and his colleagues were released this afternoon. Earlier today senior officials from the Ministry of Justice including Fikadu Tsega, deputy attorney general, visited Kality Prison, where high level opposition political party prisoners including Bekele Gerba and Jawar Mohammed are currently held at.

Eskeinder Nega, Sintayehu Chekol, Keleb Seyoum and  Askale Demise of Balderas were arrested in the first week of July following the June 29, 2020 assassination of prominent Oromo artist Hachalu Hundessa. Prosecutors filed terrorism charges against them in September 2020

According to well placed sources who spoke to Addis Standard, during the visit the justice ministry officials met with officials of Kality prison administration. The exact reason of the meeting is not clear at this moment, but news of the release of prisoners of opposition political parties including senior leaders of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) and Balderals for Genuine Democracy, led by jailed rights activist and journalist Eskindir Nega have been circulating for the last few weeks.

This came a after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in his annual message in connection with the Ethiopian Christmas, Gena, yesterday spoke about the need for “national reconciliation.”

“Because it will enable us to maintain our unity, it’s a given that Ethiopia will benefit from reconciliation,” the last parts of the PM’s message read.

In a separate message on January 07, PM Abiy said that his administration will follow four principles in the wake of what he described as “the day after our victory” referring to the year long civil war. “First we will protect our victory in every possible way. Second, we will end our victory in political and peaceful ways. Third, we will alleviate the tensions created by the conflict by our mercy of our victory in order to maintain our victory and and make it sustainable. Fourth: We will bring about transitional justice to hold those who committed crimes accountable taking into account our national traditions and values. We apply all these principles as needed without one replacing the other and in a way that makes all of us the winners.”

Addis Standard confirmed that a decision was taken to release political prisoners at the executive committee meeting of the ruling Prosperity Party held around four weeks ago. But whether the decision is to drop the charges against the prisoners or to issue amnesty remains unknown. AS

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