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Ethiopia to release suspects arrested under state emergency decree

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

December 18,2016 (ADDIS ABABA) - Ethiopian authorities said on Saturday that thousands of suspects arrested under the state of emergency decree would be freed.

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Demonstrators chant slogans while flashing the Oromo protest gesture during Irreecha, the thanksgiving festival of the Oromo people, in Bishoftu town, Oromia region, Ethiopia, October 2, 2016 (Reuters Photo)

Ethiopia declared a state decree last October after anti-government protests that sparked in Oromia region over territorial, political and economic rights turned violent claiming hundreds of lives.

The command post tasked to oversee the implementation of the six-month long state emergency announced that a total of 9,800 detainees will be freed on Wednesday next week.

Those to be freed next week are among the 11,607 suspects jailed in the first round measures taken following the imposed state decree.

It said the detainees had received training ahead of planned release from detention.

At a press briefing he gave to local journalists, Ethiopian defense minster and Secretariat of the command post, Siraj Figesa, however said 2,449 individuals suspected to have been responsible in inciting and spreading the violence will come before court.

The minister further said that an additional 12,500 suspects have been arrested in second round measures which Sudan Tribune understands would bring the total figure of suspects arrested after the decree to over 24,000.

However Siraj said those second round detainees will be released after completing training might face justice based on criminal roles they had.

He added that the command post has detained 19 groups of mobsters who had been at the forefront in escalating the violence.

Since last year the horn of Africa’s nation had been engulfed by unprecedented wave of violent unrest which killed at least 500 people.

The state emergency imposed in a bid to contain the violence has among others led to restrictions on movement of both citizens and diplomats, ban on internet, social medias and some news outlets.

A new report released this week based on a research conducted jointly by Amnesty international and Open Observatory Network Interference revealed that Ethiopian government has blocked access to WhatsApp and to at least 16 news outlets between June and October while tensions strain in the Oromia region.

The report added that Ethiopia’s move to block social media as well as news outlet’s was "illegal" and further expressed concern that the censorship might become institutionalized under the state decree.

The state emergency, country’s first in about quarter a century has also gave police power to arrest and to search anyone’s home without court authorization.

Last week, Ethiopia partially lifted ban on internet and access to social media.

The minister said the country has put in place a system to control individuals who attempt to incite violence via mobile internet service.

(ST)

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