Amnesty International welcomed Birtukan Mideksa’s release from prison yesterday. The leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) opposition party in Ethiopia, Birtukan Mideksa has a long history of speaking out against the Government of Ethiopia. In the aftermath of the potentially corrupt 2005 elections, in which the ruling Ethiopian People’s Democratic Revolutionary Front (EPRDF) retained control, she was one of many CUD officials who refuse to take office and participated in mass demonstrations. The protests were violently dispersed by police: 187 people were shot dead and 765 others were wounded. Birtukan Mideksa was arrested for the first time in November 2005, charged with treason and sentenced to life in prison. After being held for 18 months, she signed a letter of apology and was released. The other terms of her pardon remain unclear.
On 28 December 2008, Birtukan was arrested for a second time, after speaking at a public meeting in Sweden regarding the process and terms of her previous release. The Government gave her three days to retract her statement, and when she refused, arrested her again. Much of her sentence was spent in solitary confinement, and she was also not allowed to see her 4 year-old daughter until mid-April, 2009.
Birtukan Mideksa’s case was featured in Amnesty International’s 2009 Global Write-A-Thon, during which thousands of people from around the world petitioned for her release by sending letters to the Government of Ethiopia. The organization Free Birtukan has also been campaigning tirelessly for her release.
Elizabeth Stitt, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.