Leader of the Ethiopia’s opposition party has been released along with 22 other political prisoners. Merera Gudina, the chair of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) walked free this morning, more than a week after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn made the announcement that political prisoners would be freed to “build a national consensus and to widen the democratic space.” Dr. Merera was arrested on December 1, 2016, when he returned to Addis Ababa following a trip to Belgium, where he had addressed members of the European Union Parliament about human rights violations and the political situation in his country.
Wollega University’s language studies and literature department faculty member, Rufael Disasa has also been released. However, another high-profile political prisoner, Bekele Gerba will not be released before the next two months, it was said. Bekele was detained along with other officials of the party on December 23, 2015. On October 30, 2018 Bekele had been granted release on bail after nearly two years of detention. His release was then delayed by Qilinto prison authorities, reportedly due to administrative technicalities, and his bail was subsequently suspended by the Supreme Court’s cessation bench. According to reports, Gerba’s health deteriorated significantly during his imprisonment. Bekele has been sentenced to six months in prison for contempt of court along with three others after they sang a protest song during proceedings on January 12.