Ethiopia set to free 746 prisoners

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The Ethiopian government will release 746 more prisoners, including a senior opposition official and a journalist who were jailed for conspiracy to commit terrorist acts, the attorney general’s office said on Thursday.

The decision comes following a raft of reforms announced by the government to try to reduce tension in the East African country, which has been dogged by unrest since 2015.

Close to 6,000 prisoners have been freed since January, most of whom were detained for alleged involvement in mass protests that broke out three years ago in the country’s Oromiya and Amhara regions. The demonstrations were sparked by accusations of land grabbing and political marginalization.

Ethiopia’s Federal Attorney General’s Office published a list of 746 inmates for pardon, including the journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition politician Andualem Arage.

The names have been forwarded to President Mulatu Teshome, who has the power to grant their freedom.

Since 2015, hundreds of people died in violence in the country’s largest province Oromiya – and to a lesser extent its Amhara region – as protests broadened into demonstrations against political restrictions and perceived rights abuses.

Ethiopia has also been hit in the past months by a spate of ethnic clashes that have displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

With a population of 100 million, the unrest has triggered concerns over implications on regional stability and amongst investors who have been looking to tap into one of the continent’s fastest growing economies.

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