“A government official, whose name I prefer not to disclose, who is close to PM Abiy Ahmed told me during his sudden visitation at the prison that the Prime Minister had no interest in our imprisonment (ours & Jawar’s) but he was handicapped to decide over it since it was political. According to the official, the Prime Minister preferred the continuation of the legal process of our case and if we were to be sentenced at the end he’d grant us pardon as he’s legally entitled to do so,” said Eskinder Nega in the interview he had with an online YouTube media Ethio News a day after his release.
In the interview, Eskinder reflected on his imprisonment and release and underscored that they are released neither with pardon nor amnesty. In various local and international news reports, there was a connotation that Eskinder Nega, Jawar Mohammed, and the other political prisoners who were released on Jan 7 are granted Amnesty/ Pardon. However, it was lately confirmed even by the government that they are not given pardon or amnesty but their cases were dropped.
According to a statement by the Minister of Justice Gedeon Themotiwos, the decision to drop the charges on the two individuals (referring to Eskinder & Jawar) is made in consideration of the follower base the individuals have and the inclusive and participatory role it would play in the national dialogue.
Eskinder explains that they have been detained and released politically and haven’t done any offense that would make them charged at the court of law. TPLF had such a tactic of using unlawful detention and pardon as a tool of tarnishing the public acceptance and moral reverence of political figures, and there was a visible intention of implementing it this time too, he pinpoints in his reflection.
“Many friends, especially from abroad, used to persuade us to appeal for pardon. Nevertheless, we believed that, if we do so, a similar act of manipulating pardon and serious imprisonment by the government will continue to prevail to oppress dissidents in a vicious circle. Thus, we had a conviction that someone should stand out to pay the prices to stop this cunning tactic. And we were determined to stay in prison and accept what will unfold from the charges. We were defiant of refusing an appeal for a pardon until death,” Eskinder said.
He also confidently asserts that he and his friends have never committed or been in any unlawful act that can be requited with pardon or amnesty. “The government has jailed us knowing well that we haven’t done anything related to Haccalu’s death. The charges were completely fictitious. We were imprisoned just because there was a political decision that we had to be. We were simply victims,” Eskinder added.
On the other side, PM Abiy Ahmed in his speech at the inauguration of headquarters of the national defense forces noted that the government reached the decision of dropping the charges of the released politicians in respect of the people behind them and that they need to wisely use the opportunity presented to them. “Dropping charges doesn’t mean granting pardon. Because, If the person given this privilege can not use it appropriately it is possible to resume the dropped charges,” stated the Prime Minister.