Ethiopia: 6 Student activists and Reeyot Alemu released

Ethiopia released six student activists who allegedly took part in the 2014 protests, while journalist Reeyot Alemu was granted release on probation.

Authorities released on Wednesday six of the eight University students who had been in detention since last year’s protests in Oromia state.

Their detention followed the widespread protests in April-May 2014 against a proposed Master Plan integrating Addis Ababa and adjacent Oromia state districts. Police action to quell the unrest has resulted in at least eleven deaths, while thousands were jailed.

On Wednesday, the authorities released the six University students who were still in prison.

The students released after fourteen months detentions are Tofik Rashid, Bilisumma Dammana, Abdi Kamal, Lenjisa Alemayo, Magarsa Warqu, and Adugna Kesso.

Another University student, Nimona Chali, was released two months ago. Aslan Hassan, a student from Haromaya University, passed away in prison, according to activists.

Media reports claimed that most of these detainees were not formally charged.

In a related news, authorities granted Reeyot Alemu a release on probation on Thursday.

Reeyot, who was a columnist to the now-defunct Amharic weekly Féteh, has been jailed  since 2011 on charges of plotting an act of terrorism and working for a banned organization. She was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, but it was later reduced to 5 years on appeal.

She was legible for release on probation release as of last October, since Ethiopian law allows release of prisoners who served two-third of their sentence. Its implementation, however, is subject to administrative discretion.

Reeyot’s release surprised her supporters who were resigned to the possibility that she will stay in prison until mid-2016.

She was awarded the 2012 International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF)’s ‘Courage in Journalism’ Award and the 2013 UNESCO Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize while in prison. Réyot had been member of the council of Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ, aka Andinet) until 2010 when she left the party along the breakaway faction headed by Prof. Mesfin Woldemariam.

The week has also seen the release of another three journalists and two bloggers after a year long incarceration.


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