East Africa

Ethiopia frees Nation journalist Tesfa-Alem


Summary

  • Mr Tesfa-Alem told the Nation he felt relieved to be out of detention, especially after the Court had initially freed him on bail but which police authorities defied.
  • His detention on October 31 was initially based on allegations he was sympathetic to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a former ruling party that is now considered a terrorist group. The correspondent denies the allegations.
  • Last week, Ethiopia had released several hundreds of political prisoners, including eight high profile detainees seen as rivals of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
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By AGGREY MUTAMBO


Ethiopian authorities have freed Nation Media Group correspondent Tesfa-Alem Tekle following 77 days of detention in Addis Ababa.

Mr Tesfa-Alem was freed on Saturday afternoon along with several dozens of people, including professionals and journalists who had been arrested ostensibly for violating reporting rules on the Tigray conflict.

Mr Tesfa-Alem told the Nation he felt relieved to be out of detention, especially after the Court had initially freed him on bail but which police authorities defied.

“I am excited to be out free. It is the best day of my life,” he said.

Officials gave no reasons for releasing the dozens but the move follows the new policy shift announced by Addis Ababa to build a national dialogue consensus. Last week, Ethiopia had released several hundreds of political prisoners, including eight high profile detainees seen as rivals of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

His detention on October 31 was initially based on allegations he was sympathetic to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a former ruling party that is now considered a terrorist group. The correspondent denies the allegations.

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In December, officials had added new charges and he was accused of providing information to international media organisations, particularly the Nation Media Group while in detention centre, by phone.

When he was first charged in court, the Ethiopian trial magistrate released him on a bail of 1000 birr (about $20.45) but Ethiopian security agencies refused to free him. He was later transferred to a detention facility created under the controversial state of emergence policy issued in October ostensibly to contain the surge of the TPLF.

A month after his detention, the Nation Media Group petitioned the Ethiopia government raising concerns about the reporter’s health and safety.

In a letter to the country’s Ministry of Justice and also shared with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, NMG’s Editorial director Mutuma Mathiu appealed to the authorities to disclose his whereabouts and the circumstances under which he is being held.

But neither the Ethiopian government nor the Commission responded to the Nation’s pleas.

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