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Amnesty International Calls for Release of 'Prisoners of Conscience' in Ethiopia

The human rights group Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of 76 people accused of treason in Ethiopia. They were arrested following last year’s protests against the disputed may elections.

Martin Hill is with Amnesty International. From London, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about a report entitled “Ethiopia: Prisoners of Conscience on Trial for Treason.”

“This report is calling for the release of the opposition party leaders, human rights defenders and journalists who are on trial for treason, with the prosecution case starting today. The report does more than this. It documents the background to these arrests and details of the individual prisoners, the charges, and makes recommendations to the Ethiopian government and the international community.”

In calling for the immediate release of the defendants, Hill says, “We don’t believe that they have been using or advocating violence or that the charges of treason, genocide, incitement to armed rebellion are justified. We are also very concerned that they may not get a fair trial.”

A European Union observer is expected to monitor to proceedings, which are expected to last several months.

The accused include Hailu Shawel and other members of the opposition CUD Party, and Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, founder of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council. He’s 76 years old and described as being in poor health from a hunger strike. Fourteen journalists are among those charged as well.