Good news from Ethiopia

Eskinder Nega and his family

Good news from Ethiopia - one of the prisoners of conscience that our Amnesty Mid Devon Group supports and write to, has just been released from prison. Journalist Eskinder Nega, after 7 years behind bars for publishing an article about the Arab Spring, has been released as part of a government pardon of 746 prisoners.

Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s Deputy Regional Director, has said 'We hope the release of this courageous journalist, along with hundreds of other prisoners, heralds a new dawn in the Ethiopian government’s handling of political dissent, a dawn of tolerance and respect for human rights.'

Notes from our local 'caseworker' with Eskinder


After 7 years in prison, on February 14th 2018, Eskinder Nega was released from the notorious Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Eskinder was unconditionally released as part of a government pardon of 746 prisoners. He has been one of Amnesty International Mid Devon’s prisoners of conscience for several years. Eskinder Nega’s wife, Serkalem, was previously jailed for speaking out against the government and gave birth to the couple’s son, Nafkot, while in prison.

Eskinder is a world-renowned journalist and he fell foul of the Ethiopian authorities for writing articles which criticised the government, campaigned for an end to torture, and called for freedom of expression to be respected. For this ‘crime’ he was sentenced to 18 years in prison on July 13th 2012.  It was the eighth time he had been imprisoned. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most oppressive regimes when it comes to free journalism. It has the largest number of exiled journalists in the world. However, it receives a large amount of UK aid because it is seen as relatively stable and acts as a bulwark against Islamist extremism in neighbouring Somalia.

Eskinder was placed in the notorious Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa where conditions are so crowded that prisoners have to sleep on their sides – packed like slaves in a slaveship.  Political prisoners like Eskinder were treated worse than common criminals and there was a fear of speaking as political prisoners were known to ‘disappear’. Despite horrendous deprivation, Eskinder managed to get news out of his prison cell and in a smuggled letter wrote that “wherever justice suffers, our common humanity suffers too”. John Kerry ex US Secretary of State made a speech in 2014 in which he referred to “the awesomely courageous acts of individuals fighting for human rights around the world,” one of which was Eskinder Nega.

There were other organisations lobbying for Eskinder’s release but Amnesty International has been one of the most vociferous! Amnesty activists have lobbied governments of Ethiopia and Britain, signed petitions, demonstrated outside the Ethiopian Embassy and written countless cards and letters to Eskinder and officials.  The hard work has paid off. Finally Eskinder Nega is FREE!  We are so proud to have been part of the process of ensuring Eskinder was never forgotten while he languished in prison.

Sheila Eschle

Ex-Case worker for Eskinder Nega

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