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    Ethiopia plans to release political prisoners in bid for national dialogue

    Ethiopia’s prime minister stunned the country Wednesday by announcing plans to release imprisoned politicians and close a notorious detention center as he seeks to promote political dialogue.
    It is a bold move for this U.S. ally and bulwark of regional stability that has repeatedly been criticized for its heavy-handed treatment of the opposition. Ethiopia has been plagued by years of ethnic unrest as well as rising differences within the ruling coalition.
    At a news conference with leaders of the four parties making up the ruling coalition, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that some members of political parties under prosecution will be released and that those convicted will be pardoned based on an assessment “to establish a national consensus and widen the political sphere,” according to a statement released by his office.
    The Maekelawi detention center in downtown Addis Ababa will be closed and turned into a museum, the statement added. The opposition has long demanded the closure of the prison while also calling for the release of prominent opposition figures held in detention.
    Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have alleged torture and other violations at Ethio­pian detention centers, and there was cautious optimism that the announcement might represent a shift.
    The government has been under extreme pressure since members of the Oromo community, the country’s largest ethnic group, launched protests in 2015 over what they called their marginalization and lack of political influence. The deaths of at least 1,000 people and attacks on foreign businesses prompted a 10-month state of emergency that ended in August.
    The Washington post.

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