An Amnesty International USA board member and a candidate for the U.S. Congress spoke at an event Saturday calling for the release of 35-year-old Birtukan Mideksa from Kaliti prison in Addis. Pardoned in 2007 from a life sentence for charges made following the street violence of the 2005 national election, Birtukan was sent back to prison one year ago for allegedly challenging the circumstances of her release.
In Washington, D.C., in front of the State Department, hundreds of Ethiopians from near and far gathered on a brisk winter morning to protest the arrest of Birtukan Mideksa and other political prisoners in Ethiopia. "Birtukan is behind bars for political reasons, we are demanding justice and we want the United States government to use its leverage to pressure the Ethiopian government to respect human rights," said Yonathan Amezene, an advocate for the so-called "Free Birtukan" movement. "We have submitted petitions from Atlanta and other states so Secretary Clinton looks at the human rights plights in Ethiopia."
The lawyer, former judge and chair of Unity for Democracy & Justice party, the largest party opposed to the ruling EPRDF, has been in solitary confinement for one year, allowed only 30-minute visits weekly from her mother and daughter.
An all-day tribute was made in Dallas, Texas where speakers including Dr. Rick Halperin, a member of the board of directors of Amnesty International USA and director of the Southern Methodist University human rights education program; Grier Raggio, a Democratic candidate for 32nd district Congressional district in Dallas County; and Gillian Parillo, a community organizer.
Ethiopia's prime minister, Meles Zenawi, says the question of his government ever releasing Birtukan is a "dead issue."
Alula Kebede and Henok Fente reported from Washington, D.C. Click on the right corner to listen to the reports.