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EU Delegation Denied Access to Imprisoned Journalists in Ethiopia

July 19, 2013

By Dagnachew Teklu

Imprisoned Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu, recipient of the 2012 Courage in Journalism Award and winner of the 2013 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. (Photo: Getty Images)

Imprisoned Ethiopian journalist Reeyot Alemu, recipient of the 2012 Courage in Journalism Award and winner of the 2013 UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize. (Photo: Getty Images)

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS)- A delegation of the European Parliament’s Subcommittee on Human Rights conducted a visit to Addis Ababa this week to meet with AU and Ethiopian officials and to assess the human rights situation in Ethiopia. The EU parliamentary delegation was led by Barbara Lochbihler of Germany and included Jacek Protasiewicz of Poland, Jörg Leichtfried of Austria, and Jean-Jacob of France.

The group was turned away from Kaliti prison, where most of Ethiopia’s prominent imprisoned journalists and political leaders are held.

Reached by phone the head of the EU delegation, Barbara Lochbihler, said officials at the prison administration asked the delegation to leave the area without giving them any explanation. She said they had received permission in advance through the EU delegation in Ethiopia to visit the Kality prison facility. She said the meeting was scheduled from 8:00 am to 9:00 am on Wednesday morning.

“However, when we arrived there, we were denied access,” Barbara said. She noted that the delegation had a similar visit earlier this year to Yemen without such an incident. “We are protesting this action,” she said. “It is honestly disappointing.”

Barbara indicated that the delegation was scheduled to visit journalists Reyout Alemu, Eskinder Nega, Woubishet Taye and other imprisoned opposition party officials.

“The Government of Ethiopia must guarantee freedom of opinion, speech and the right of peaceful assembly at all times, in accordance with its Constitution and obligations under international law,” the European Union said in a statement.

In an interview with the Associated Press Getachew Reda, a spokesman for Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, said Ethiopia has no political prisoners. “We do have, like any other country, people who were convicted of crimes including terrorism who are currently serving their sentence,” he said. “We are not going to release anyone just because some European Union members said so.”

Getachew dismissed the EU appeal saying: “They [the prisoners] would only be freed when either they complete their sentence or probation on good behavior.” Read the rest at Tadias.

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