(OPride) — Ethiopia on Tuesday released prominent Oromo opposition leader Bekele Gerba and six of his Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) colleagues from prison.
Authorities dropped all charges against the freed leaders, a day after a #OromiaStrikes blocked roads and staged rallies bringing the restive Oromia state to a standstill. The news of Bekele’s release was welcomed with warm and spontaneous celebrations across the country.
Bekele, secretary-general of OFC, was arrested in December 2015 at the height of the three-year long Oromo protests. He was initially charged terrorism but his charges were later reduced to criminal offenses for allegedly inciting violence.
“He just walked out of prison. We have confirmed that all charges against him have been dropped,” Mulatu Gemechu, a member of the OFC’s leadership told Reuters.
The other six OFC leaders released today are Gurmessa Ayano, Addisu Bulala, Dajane Xafa, Getu Garuma, Tesfaye Liban and Beyene Ruda.
The move is a response to deepening protests demanding Bekele’s release and part of a promise Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn made last month to build national consensus and widen the democratic space.