The ministry of justice said the Tigray detainees “were granted amnesty taking into consideration their age and health condition.”
Ethiopia’s government announced an amnesty for some of the country’s most high-profile political detainees.
Friday’s amnesty included opposition figure Jawar Mohammed and senior Tigray party officials, as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed spoke of reconciliation for Orthodox Christmas.
It was the most dramatic move yet by the government after the country’s deadly Tigray war entered a new phase in late December, when Tigray rebels retreated into their region amid a military offensive and Ethiopian forces said they would not advance further there.
Ethiopia’s state broadcaster, EBC, named both Jawar and Eskinder Nega, who were detained in July 2020 following deadly unrest over the killing of popular ethnic Oromo artist Hachalu Hundessa, as those granted amnesty. Eskinder, leader of the Balderas party, left a detention center on Friday evening.
But Tuli Bayis, a lawyer for Jawar of the Oromo Federalist Congress party and others, said that they refused to leave the prison facility as the order for their release came late in the day.
“They have security risks, so they preferred to exit the correction facility in daytime,” Tuli said, adding he was not sure why the order for their release came now.
“We heard it is an amnesty, that’s what we know for now.”
Groundwork for upcoming national dialogue
Ethiopia’s ministry of justice said the amnesty for Jawar and Nega was granted “to make the upcoming national dialogue successful and inclusive.” Ethiopian lawmakers on Dec. 29 approved a bill to establish a commission for national dialogue amid international pressure for negotiations to end the war.
The state broadcaster also named several senior officials with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front as being granted amnesty and said they will be released soon. They include Sebhat Nega, Kidusan Nega, Abay Woldu, Abadi Zemu, Mulu Gebregziabher and Kiros Hagos.