ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia has released five activists who were detained earlier this year after the killing of its Amhara region’s president and three other senior officials and the army chief of staff in the capital, a prominent journalist said on Tuesday.
The five were among nearly 250 people arrested in June after the violence in June in Addis Ababa and Amhara’s main city of Bahir Dar.
Journalist Eskinder Nega said the five confirmed the release. They are his fellow activists in a pressure group opposed to what it saw as the domination of the Oromo ethnic group in the capital.
“This is a confirmation that their arrest from the very beginning was wrong and it was based on lies,” he said.
“The government has decided to release them now because at the moment it is facing public outcry, so it is a diversion.”
Government officials were not immediately available to comment on the release.
The June violence, which the government said was part of a plot by a rogue general and his militia to take over Amhara, exposed how ethnic tensions are threatening the reform agenda of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Last week, supporters of another activist took to the streets to protest his treatment. Jawar Mohammed said police had surrounded his home in Addis Ababa and tried to withdraw his government security detail.
Crowds of young men from his Oromo ethnic group quickly turned their anger against the prime minister, also an Oromo, saying he had betrayed them by mistreating Jawar.
Abiy won the Nobel peace prize this month for making peace with Ethiopia’s longtime foe Eritrea. Jawar had spearheaded protests that propelled Abiy to power last year.
Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by David Gregorio