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Ethiopia frees journalists, politicians rearrested under martial law

Local media in Ethiopia are reporting the release of recently detained journalists and activists. A total of 19 people were picked up in Bahir Dar, capital of the Amhara regional state on March 26 for flouting orders under a state of emergency.

The arrested party included politicians and journalists who were only recently freed (in February 2018) under a government announced political reform program earlier in January.

They were arrested primarily for an unauthorized gathering and use of a banned national flag. The gathering according to one of the detainees, blogger Befeqadu Hailu, was a welcome party for recently released prisoners.

Among them was Eskinder Nega, an award-winning journalist who had been held since 2011 over charges of terrorism. Others picked up included Andualem Aragie, leader of Ethiopian opposition UDJ party, journalist Temesgen Desalegn and bloggers Befeqadu Hailu and Zelalem Workagegnehu.

According to regulations of the Command Post overseeing the latest state of emergency declared in mid-February, people are prohibited from gatherings that do not have the approval of relevant authorities.

It is also reported that the gathering used the Ethiopian plain flag, which does not have the blue disc contrary to law.

A proclamation regarding the use of the Ethiopian flag prohibits the display of the flag without the emblem at its center and those contravening the law could be sentenced to up to a year and a half in prison.

The country swore in a new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed from the protest-hit Oromia region. He takes the mantle after the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn who quit to allow promised reforms to be pursued.

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