Ethiopia closes Maekelawi as internet service returns

The Notorious Maekelawi Prison in Ethiopia

April 6

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopia has closed a prison notorious for decades for holding opposition figures, journalists and activists, a state-affiliated media outlet reported Friday, as the country adjusts to a new prime minister who has said it is time to “make up for all the wrongs done in the past.”

Fana Broadcasting Corporate announced Maekelawi’s closure months after the former prime minister said it would be turned into a museum. Prisoners will be transferred elsewhere.

Ethiopia installed new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed this week as Africa’s second most populous nation tries to recover from months of the most serious anti-government protests in a quarter-century. The protests demanding more freedoms began in the Oromia and Amhara regions in late 2015 and spread elsewhere, bringing many businesses and transport networks to a standstill and leading to a state of emergency.

Also on Friday, residents across the restive Oromia region told The Associated Press that internet service had returned after several weeks. Observers have said the government shut down service to control the spread of protest images on social media.

The new prime minister is from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest, and has vowed to solve “lots of problems.”

On Thursday, 11 journalists, politicians and bloggers who were detained last month for allegedly displaying an outlawed flag and gathering in violation of the latest state of emergency were released.

The closure of the prison “could signal the end of an era of bloody repression in Ethiopia,” Amnesty International researcher Fisseha Tekle said when the plan was first announced. “For years, Maekelawi has essentially functioned as a torture chamber, used by the Ethiopian authorities to brutally interrogate anybody who dares to dissent.”

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