ETHIOPIA: TEACHER RELEASED AFTER SIX YEARS AS PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE
Dr Taye, President of the Ethiopian Teachers Association and well-known critic of the government's education policy, was released following a five-year campaign by Amnesty International, the NUT and teachers' unions around the world.
Following his arrest on 30 May 1996, Dr Taye spent nearly six years in prison before and after a fifteen-year sentence in June 1999 for conspiracy to overthrow the state in a trial adjudged unfair and politically motivated by Amnesty International. During his pre-trial imprisonment Dr Taye endured solitary confinement for four months and being shackled in handcuffs 24 hours a day for two years. He received constant death threats and harassment from prison guards.
Steve Sinnott, NUT Deputy General Secretary, who visited Dr Taye in prison in December 2000, said:
'This is great news. Dr Taye has been in prison for being a trade unionist. His determination to resist treatment of the grossest kind will be an inspiration to people across the world.
Dr Taye said to me that without the support of teachers and others in the UK he would have been in pieces. At this time we should thank the British Embassy in Addis Ababa for their vigilance over the years in this case.'
Peter Wright, an Amnesty International member from Abbey Wood, south London, an active campaigner on Dr Taye's behalf for three years, said:
'Just knowing that campaigning can have some kind of effect is fantastic. Over the years I wrote to the Ethiopian government and to their ambassador in London and asked other teachers in the UK to do something too. As a teacher and trade unionist, it is quite shocking to think that the things he was imprisoned for are the sort of things we do here when we are standing up for teachers' and pupils' interests.'
Dr Taye received over 3,000 greeting cards and messages of support after Amnesty International and the NUT asked its supporters in the UK to send cards to him in prison during December 1999.