By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
September 11, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Ethiopian government on Saturday (on the eve of the country’s New Year) freed 135 muslims who had been jailed under the country’s controversial anti-terror laws.
The inmates were among the hundreds of other prisoners released yesterday after the Ethiopian government grant them amnesty in connection with the 2009 Ethiopian New Year.
The 135 inmates were serving lengthy jail terms after convicted on religious extremism and terrorism related crimes.
In 2012, Ethiopian Muslims in larger parts of the country staged months-long violent protests.
They were protesting against alleged government interference on their religious affairs, an allegation the government denies.
Ethiopia’s Prosecutor-General, Getachew Ambaye, said the members of the Muslim group were freed after they wrote a remorse letter which led to presidential pardon.
Among those release was Yusuf Getachew, editor-in-chief of Ye Muslimoch Guday (Muslim Affairs), who has been imprisoned since his arrest in July 2012.
Media freedom group, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has welcomed the Government’s move to free the inmates.
It however called on Ethiopian authorities to release all journalists who remain behind bars.
"We are elated that Yusuf Getachew has finally been released from prison, but he should never have been jailed in the first place," said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator.
"We call on the Ethiopian authorities to immediately release all other journalists imprisoned in the country for their work."
Yusuf was serving a seven-year sentence on anti-terrorism charges.
According to CPJ’s last prison census, Ethiopia is the third worst jailer of journalists in Africa, with currently 10 journalists held in custody.
Ethiopia’s Pardon and Amnesty Law – which intended to promote and strengthen the values of solidarity, forgiveness and national reconciliation – allows pardons to be granted to prisoners who have shown sincere regret for their crimes and those who demonstrated good discipline during their detention.
Every year, Ethiopia’s federal government and regional states grant amnesty for thousands of prisoners as the horn of Africa’s nation marks its own New Year celebrations on September 11.
In past years, federal government had pardoned many individuals convicted of serious offences including dozens of members terrorist designated entities such as Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) and Ginbot 7.