Write-a-Thon Series: Birtukan Mideksa

December 8, 2009

This posting is part of our Write-a-Thon Cases Series. For more information visit www.amnestyusa.org/writeathon/

© AI Birtukan Mideksa
© AI Birtukan Mideksa

Birtukan Mideksa, an opposition party leader, is serving a life sentence in Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She was previously arrested in November 2005 after the Coalition for Unity and Democracy party, of which she was a leader, disputed the results of local and parliamentary elections.

Post-election demonstrations turned violent — security forces shot dead 187 people and wounded 765 others, while at least six police officers were also killed. Birtukan Mideksa was charged with treason among other charges, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Local elders working with detainees negotiated a process which led to a pardon by Ethiopian authorities. Birtukan Mideksa and others were released in June 2007 after serving more than 18 months in prison. The exact terms of the pardon remain unclear.

In November 2008 Birtukan Mideksa spoke at a public meeting in Sweden about her pardon and the process that led to her release. When she returned to Ethiopia, authorities asked her to retract her statement. She refused and was re-arrested in December 2008, when the Ministry of Justice revoked her pardon and re-imposed her life sentence.

Amnesty International considers her a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression and association.