There were claims that Birtukan Mideksa spent a dreadful time in prison. Such claims had been made as late as last Friday by people who are presumed to be close to her.

The latest one came from Abiye T/Mariam, editor of the now-defunct Addis Neger newspaper, now blogging on and attending further education in Britain. His facebook status read, on Friday Oct. 08/2010, “when the details of Birtukan’s treatment in prison come out, everyone of my friends here will be nauseating. I’ve never cried so much since [long time]”.

As a result, I, like many others, had been eagerly waiting for Brtukan to speak up about her prison stay.

Thus, I translated and posted an extract of Birtukan’s first interview with two weekly Amharic newspapers published yesterday.

[The following is from Addis Admas – Oct. 9/2010]

Photo - Birtukan Mideksa meeting family, friends
Photo – Birtukan Mideksa meeting family, friends

You went to prison for a second time. How do you compare the two?
They are very different. The previous was much better. I was imprisoned with my colleagues and had unrestricted weekly visitation from friends, family members, and relatives. The second imprisonment, one other hand, had been restrictive. I had been in solitary confinement for the first five months, though I was accompanied by two prisoners after that. Visitation had been restricted to family members, later my brother, sister, and niece/nephew were allowed to visit me. Nonetheless, the shortness of the duration of the visitation constrained my interaction with my family, especially with regard to my daughter. The time had been insufficient to maintain mother daughter relation and follow-up her health, education and other stuffs.

Access to media and information?
Except for two months when I had a radio, my media access had been limited to ETV (the state-owned broadcaster).
The issues I can discuss with my visitors were limited. Save matters concerning my health and the well-being of my family and relatives, we were not allowed to discuss about my imprisonment or the efforts of others to secure my release.

How long had the Elders been working on your release?
It was on Sept 11 this year that Professor Ephraim Yitzhak (leader of the Elders group) managed to visit me and discuss about my release on pardon. The process started after that.

[The following is from Awramba Times – Oct. 9/2010]

Lat Easter, ETV aired a footage that shows you chatting with Pastor Daniel, member of the Elders group. Did you consent to the video recording?
They visited my room like any other prison cell. I do not think I have a right to protest that. They made such visitations several times before that. I never objected such visits. I did not consider it as a big deal.

There were claims about your bad health conditions. Was it factual?
Yes, I was in bad shape once. It was related to backache, with depression, and deprivation of sleep.

Did you get medical treatment within the prison?

Did you want to be treated outside? And, did you make such request?
No, I did not. The physician, who had been treating me, did not see any need for that, so he did not refer me to another medical facility.

Rumour has it that you are quitting politics. What do you say?
I had been secluded from the outside world and had been limited to ETV and two fellow prisoners for a year and 9 months. I have limited information about the status of the Ethiopian politics, the opposition camp, and related matters. Thus, my plan is to take time and update myself. I also need time for myself. Thus, I have decided to take some time.

Seye Abraha and Negaso Gidada joined UDJ. What do you have to say about it?
I am not in a position to comment about those issues.

What do you say about UDJ’s decision to join the MEDREK coalition? I had been controversial.
I told you. I have no sufficient basis to comment on issues such as who said what, why CUD joined MEDREK, was it beneficial or disadvantageous …etc.

Do you plan to write a book about your prison life?
(Laughter) It is a good idea. I have not thought about it, yet.

On the news about your release, ETV showed footage of your interview. Would you tell us where it was recorded?
Yes! It was in the prison. The interview took place at the office of the Head of the Prison.

Was it recorded on the same day of your release?
No. It was on Monday. [That is Oct. 4/2010.]

What do you have to say for those who longed for your release?
I am grateful for all who prayed for me, who were concerned about my health, who consoled my family and who gave me moral support. May God bless them.


Related materials: On Birtukan Mideksa archive

Daniel Berhane

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