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Ethiopia Says Jailed Opposition Leaders' Fate Rests With Judicial Process


In the past weeks there has been conflicting information about the fate of 38 Ethiopian opposition leaders jailed since that country’s 2005 election. They were convicted last month on charges of high treason and are scheduled to be sentenced sometime this month.

One report said the opposition leaders agreed to sign a document accepting responsibility for the violence that followed the 2005 election in exchange for their release. Another said some of them signed the document while others refused to.

Bereket Simon is advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. He told VOA the fate of the jailed opposition leaders is in the hands of the country’s courts.

“One of the reports which the Prime Minister presented to the parliament dealt with this also. He has told parliament that this is a court case pending final decision by the court in coming weeks. So it is difficult for any official of the government to speak about the process that might have a negative impact on the judicial process. So I think we will talk about this once the judicial process is consummated,” he said.

Simon declined to confirm whether the government had asked the jailed opposition leaders to issue an apology as a precondition for their release.

“As you know the government has told the opposition before the judicial process started, before the legal action was taken, and while they had plenty of time to decide not to break the law, unfortunately they didn’t pay attention to take the advice the government offered them, and they continue with their kind of revolution. And once that has taken place, we have brought them to justice. Now if they feel that they have made mistakes and ask government for an apology or a pardon, that is within their right. The government is not going to interfere there. That is not in the business of government to go and beg them for asking pardon. That’s not in the nature of this government,” Simon said.

It had been rumored the Ethiopian government would like for the jailed opposition leaders to apologize for the 2005 post-election violence and ask for clemency.

But Simon reiterated the government would not interfere with the judicial process.

“First, as I have told you, this judicial process must be consummated. That’s what we are clinging on. Secondly, if they ask, that is their right, and we are not going to stop them from asking. And what would the government do if they asked is another question which has to be answered after the consummation of the judicial process,” Simon said.

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