PRESS RELEASE | 16 Feb. 2009 — MEP Ana Gomes asked the Speaker of the Ethiopian Parliament “not to leave a stone unturned until Birtukan Midekssa is released”. The request was put forward during a meeting of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, on 12 February, in Brussels, Belgium. [Picture: Ana Gomes (right) hosted a Roundtable on ‘Food Crisis and Human Rights in Ethiopia’, at the European Parliament (Brussels), on 10 November 2008, with Birtukan Midekssa (left) as a guest speaker.]
In reaction to the request, Mr. Teshome Toga argued that Ms. Midekssa has questioned the Ethiopian authorities, by publicly stating that she did not voluntarily ask for the governmental pardon that lead to the release of several political prisoners, in 2007.
“In which civilised country is someone sentenced to life imprisonment only for speaking publicly about the negotiations preceding her release from prison?!”, added Ms. Gomes, during the discussion.
The European Parliament passed last January a Resolution on the Horn of Africa, which asks for the immediate and unconditional release of Birtukan Midekssa, leader of the opposition party Unity for Democracy Justice (UDJ).
In 2006 Birtukan Midekssa was charged with treason, alongside other CUD leaders, parliamentarians, journalists and human rights defenders, tried and sentenced to life imprisonment. The majority of those found guilty were released after governmental pardons issued in 2007.
In November 2008, Burtukan Midekssa spoke at a public meeting in Sweden about the process leading to her release. Ethiopian government officials responded by accusing her of denying that she had asked for a pardon. On 28 December she was rearrested. Shortly afterwards, the Ministry of Justice issued a statement revoking her pardon and re-imposing her original life sentence.
Amnesty International considers her a prisoner of conscience, at risk of torture, who was arrested solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and association.