Hailemariam Desalegn. Picture: REUTERS
Hailemariam Desalegn. Picture: REUTERS

Addis Ababa — Prominent Ethiopian opposition leader Merera Gudina had been freed from jail after the government dropped charges against him as part of a wider prisoner amnesty, state media reported.

In his first reported comments after his release on Wednesday, Merera urged the government to hold "honest negotiations" with political organisations to consolidate a national consensus.

Merera is the first prominent dissident to be freed since Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced earlier in January that Ethiopia would release an unspecified number of jailed "politicians". The detention of Merera, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, had become a cause celebre for members of the Oromo ethnic group.

In 2015, they began months of antigovernment demonstrations that spread across Ethiopia, leaving hundreds dead and prompting parliament to declare a state of emergency.

"It would be good if the government conducts honest negotiations with political forces which have widespread support, in order to create a democratic Ethiopia that incorporates everyone equally," he told the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate after his release.

Merera is among 528 people Ethiopia’s attorney-general dropped charges against this week. Most of the others were accused of involvement in ethnic clashes in the south.

Merera was taken into custody in 2016 after returning from Europe, where he spoke out at the European Parliament about the state of emergency.


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