UPDATE: Bekele Gerba Freed Amid Strike

Bekele Gerba was released from prison on Tuesday after the authorities dismissed all charges against him. Bekele’s release came amid a three-day strike across Oromiya province as well as a mass pardoning of dissidents by the government aimed at reducing unrest that has simmered since 2015. (Photograph: Bekele Gerba at the NPR office in D.C., August 2015/NPR)


Ethiopia frees opposition leader amid protests

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia released a senior opposition leader from prison on Tuesday and dropped all charges against him, a day after demonstrators blocked roads and staged rallies in several towns to protest against his incarceration.

Bekele Gerba, secretary general of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), was arrested in December 2015 after mass protests broke out in the Oromiya region over accusations that farmers were being forced to sell land with scant compensation.

He had been held initially on terrorism charges, which were later reduced to charges of incitement to violence.

“He just walked out of prison. We have confirmed that all charges against him have been dropped,” Mulatu Gemechu, a member of the OFC’s leadership told Reuters.

State-affiliated media confirmed that Bekele had been freed along with seven other opposition figures, and that the charges against him had been dropped. Ethiopia’s information minister was not available for comment.

Read more »

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