Ethiopia freed jailed opposition leader Birtukan Mideksa
She was sent back to prison in December 2008 after claiming she had never asked to be pardoned.
“She is released now. She is back home,” government spokesman Shimeles Kemal said. Birtukan had submitted a pardon plea last month and had been pardoned by Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, Shimeles said.
The justice ministry said Birtukan regretted having denied she was granted pardon in 2007.
“I express my deep regret for deceiving the Ethiopian people and government by denying my release on pardon,” the ministry quoted her as saying in a statement.
“Pledging not to ever resolve to these fraudulent and deceptive acts, I beg the Ethiopian people and government to grant me pardon.
“In her remorseful petition, Birtukan Mideksa implored the prime minister to grant her a second pardon for her to be able to see her ageing mother and child,” it added.
The UDJ deputy chief Negasso Gidada said their party leader had arrived at her home after her release from Kaliti prison.
“We are very happy she is being freed,” Negasso told AFP. Witnesses also said she had reunited with her family.
“Arriving at her house, she thanked her neighbours, relatives and family for all the support they gave her throughout her ordeal,” said one witness.
Sources said the decision to free Birtukan was negotiated by a committee of wise men.
Ethiopia has been repeatedly criticised for stifling basic freedoms, a charge the government has denied.
This year’s election in May, in which Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling coalition won nearly all the parliamentary seats, was slammed by observers as not being free
Opposition groups rejected the results, but their bid to have a re-vote was rejected by the electoral panel.
Human Rights Watch said the Ethiopian regime had been gradually clamping down on political freedom since the violent aftermath of the 2005 elections.
On Wednesday, Amnesty International said it considered Birtukan a “prisoner of conscience,”
“She was imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and association. We are delighted that she has been able to go home to her family,” said Michelle Kagari, the group’s deputy director for Africa.