The Ethiopian government is to release political prisoners and detainees and close down notorious prison, Maekelawi (“central” in Amharic), Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said in press briefing this morning. The announcement was made by Hailemariam after a seventeenth-day meeting of the executive committee of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The move came amidst economic troubles and two years of political turmoil that have rocked the country. The four chairpersons of EPRDF’s member parties, OPDO, ANDM, TPLF, SEPDM and TPLF, Lemma Megersa, Demeke Mekonen, Hailemarim Deslaegn, Debretsion Gebremichael participated in the briefing. Hailemarim said that it has been decided that some politcal leaders and individuals who are convicted of crimes they have done or those who are on trial, would have either their cases withdrawn or pardoned to build a national consensus and to widen the democratic space.
Some of the prominent politicians currently in custody include opposition leaders Bekele Gerba and Merara Gudina. A number of journalists also remain in detention. “And the prison cell that was traditionally called Maekelawi will be closed down and turned into a museum.”
An independent task force that fulfils international standard has also been set up to investigate human rights abuses and the handling of prisoners, he said.