Birtukan is Free!! Accorded a hero’s welcome!! – Eskinder Nega Addis Ababa

October 6th, 2010 Print Print Email Email

Birtukan Mideksa, prominent Ethiopian political prisoner, was freed today from almost two years of absurd imprisonment—a blatant abuse of power by the EPRDF, specifically PM Meles Zenawi. (more…)

Birtukan Mideksa, prominent Ethiopian political prisoner, was freed today from almost two years of absurd imprisonment—a blatant abuse of power by the EPRDF, specifically PM Meles Zenawi. She was accorded a hero’s welcome by family, relatives, friends and supporters. A press conference is due in few hours where her terms of release will be detailed.


Here is a synopsis of what had happened since mid- December 2008:

December 10 2008

The public face of the brutal Federal Police is startling. Clean shaven, tall, a little on the bulky side, urbane, and tastefully attired, he is in fact the opposite of the popular caricature of the uncouth and uneducated Federal Police officials. Werkeneh Gebeyehu ,

Commissioner of the Federal Police and its public face, though real power lie with his deputies, cut an impressive figure behind his desk as he spoke with Birtukan Mideksa on December 10 2008.

“What legal mandate does the Federal Police have in regard to this issue?” inquired Birtukan Mideksa, President of UDJ, an opposition party, after the Commissioner had winded down.

He smiled contemptuously before he answered. But her courage surprised him. This is probably the first time for him to personally experience it.


“This is no academic discourse,” he said, trying his best to deepen his voice. He was really caught off guard. This could hardly been discussed when he was instructed to speak with her by the battle-hardened leaders of the EPRDF. “I think its best if you avoid raising such kind of questions,” he said, almost unconsciously with who-cares-what-the- law-says tenor to his voice.

Werkenh recapped by insisting that the terms of Birtukan’s conditional pardon had been violated in Sweden; where, he alleged, she had publicly denied seeking pardon to get out of prison. He sought a public retraction. Birtukan parted with the Commissioner convinced that the EPRDF was out to frustrate her party’s prospects from the very outset.

December 23 2008

Almost two weeks later, Birtukan was again summoned by Werkeneh, this time courtesy of a warrant, which she demanded, to his lavish office in downtown Addis. It was to be a brief sojourn.

“You have three days to deliver a public retraction of your statement in Sweden to this office. If not, the government will assume that the pardon was secured under false pretense and revoke it,” he told her officiously. There was nothing more either side could say. An ultimatum had been delivered and a time-frame set. Upping the challenge, the demand was publicized on state media that night. The nation held its breath in suspense. birtukan-mideksa-after-release-6-oct-2010e

December 26 2008

Three days later, Birtukan responded publicly but ignored the demand to deliver it to Werkeneh’s office. In a brilliant piece she released to the press, she said:

“I have asked forgiveness through the elders by signing on the document dated June 18, 2006 in the spirit of reconciliation the elders championed and to bestow a political end to charges that were politically motivated. This is a fact that I cannot change even if I want to….To present a process that has complex features as a case that followed a normal legal process for asking forgiveness is either foolishness or ignorance….In my opinion, the real reasons behind all these illegal intimidation and warnings have nothing to do with transgressions of the law. The message is clear, and is not only for me but also for all those who are active in the peaceful struggle: A peaceful and law-abiding political struggle can be conducted only within the limits set by the ruling party, not the constitution.”

December 28 2008

What happened on December 28 is brilliantly here detailed by Professor Al Mariam, in a January 5 2010 commentary titled “In defense of Birtukan Mideksa:

That happened last week in Ethiopia. Unity for Democracy and Justice Party (UDJP) President Ms. Bertukan Mideksa was strong-armed, manhandled and whisked away to the infamous Kality prison. In a VOA interview, Professor Mesfin Woldemariam, the aging human rights lion of Ethiopia, gave eyewitness testimony. On December 29, Prof. Mesfin was standing with Pastor Daniel and President Birtukan outside of Pastor Daniel’s office when four unmarked vehicles stormed on the scene. Approximately 10 unidentified armed men (thugs) exited the vehicles and violently grabbed President Birtukan and forcibly dragged her into their vehicle. Professor Mesfin attempted to reason with the abductors explaining that it was unnecessary to rough up President Birtukan as a simple summons would be enough to command her appearance in a court of law. At that point, the crew of thugs tongue-lashed Prof. Mesfin with a torrent of insults. One of the thugs assaulted the nearly 80-year old professor savagely with the butt of his rifle almost knocking him to the ground. Prof. Mesfin suffered blunt force trauma injury to his abdominal area in the unprovoked assault. He was rushed for medical assistance, and reports indicate that he is undergoing extensive tests to determine the extent of his injury. (It is to be remembered that Prof. Mesfin underwent major surgery in India a little over a year ago.) President Birtukan’s driver, Ato Abdurahman Ahmed, was also beaten mercilessly by the thugs.

Post December 28 2008

Asked abourt Birtukan’s imprisonment, Meles Zenawi, was adamant that she will not be freed. “ It will undermine the process,” he said repeatedly. She had her one chance. Of course no one believed him; not even his steady admirers.

Of the last time he spoke about her in Ethiopia, I wrote:

Posing defiantly before probing journalists after a universally mocked “election victory” , Meles Zenawi,PM, whose party “won” 99.6% of parliamentary seats, spoke about her harshly, but noticeably absent the typical ardor: “This(her release) is a purely legal issue, and it is between her and the law. No one can come between the two. No one. Not opposition parties, not our friends abroad.” Much to the relief of the public,however, long attuned to reading between the lines of its official’s doublespeak, her release is not a “dead issue,” as has been land privatization for the entirety of his party’s existence. And by the dismal standards of the times, when the dominance of the EPRDF is overbearing, this is cause for optimism. There is room for her release short of a revolutionary overhaul.

September 22 2010

Meles responds to query about Birtukan’s imprisonment at Columbia University. ” I wouldn’t be surprised if she were to ask for a pardon. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the government was to grant it to her,” he said. Few days later, “mediators” leaked news of her imminent release. Family members also quietly confirm her pending release.

October 4 2010

Mediators inform journalists of a planned press conference on October 5 2010. The theme: Bitrtuka’s release. It’s now semi-official. Less than twenty four hours to go!

October 5 2010

Unnamed government officials confirm her release “There was no bargaining. This is purely a magnanimous act by the government,” said one unnamed government official haughtily to local papers.An obvious attempt to dampen the celebratory mood. (Won’t work, guys!!! She is a heroine in the eyes of millions! Give it up!!)

Birtukan is finally FREE! Accorded a hero’s welcome.

  1. visitor
    | #1

    this is a good news mrs.birtukan is released god bless her and those of you who were voicing for her release deserve a thank you we look for ward for the release of thousands of political prisioners in ethiopia as well we must ask for the rest to be released as we did for mrs.birtukan god bless teh ethiopian people.

  2. Ethio
    | #2

    We are happy, Thanks Abugida for the last two years job. you guys are working hard every day.

  3. Anonymous
    | #3

    Great news! As we celebrate let’s also remember the rest of the law abiding Ethiopians who are incarcerated with no specific reason and accused of something they did not do. The military men who are thrown in prison and tortured, the thousands of Ethiopians who got picked up from the streets of Ethiopia and thrown in jail and their heads shaved with the same blade intentionally to spread Aids. My fellow Ethiopians, Birtukan is just a start, the fight must continue!!

  4. Yifru Hailu
    | #4

    The truth always prevail,a hero/ heroine endure to the end. It is indeed a victory for Birtukan and the oeople of Ethiopia she loves most. I am absuletly speechles to express my joy. The best is yet to come, total victory is at hand. The day is not too far when this remarkable woman and and the people of Ethiopia finally clain their country.

    God bless Birtukan and her family!
    God also bless Ethiopia and its nation!!!

    Yifru Hailu
    New Haven Connecticut

  5. Endale
    | #5

    What a blessed date. At last Birtukan is Free!! The best daughter mother Ethiopia ever got is now out of the darkness and solitude of prison. She is home with her beloved daughter and mother. October 6 is a special day. It is a day of victory of peace and freedom loving people over a barbaric and dictatorial regime. It is therefore a day of joy and hope for the friends of the Ethiopian people. Long live Birtukan!!

  6. Molla
    | #6

    ETV’s report about the release of Birtukan is very ridiculous and show how the Woyane’s gone mad. The letter requesting for pardon is outrageous and revealed the narssistic disorder of Meles Zenawi. No body with normal mind will accept that Birtukan, who endured two years of imprisonment in those dreadful conditions, willingly write it. On the letter Birtukan almost insulted and degraded herself, if Meles has a healthy mind he should have understood that nobody will take this nonsense seriously. He is trying to show his arrogance and mock Birtukan’s supporters and freedom loving Ethiopians. By doing this, Meles has exposed his pscyhosis and the danger Ethiopans are facing as long as the tyrant is on power.

  7. Yetim Atiders
    | #7

    Let us wait and see! Lessons learned ONE MORE TIME!! GOD BLESS ETHIOPIA!!

  8. Anonymous
    | #8

    God is with Ms Birtukan and her family/Ethiopian people the miracle’s will continue,what ever the condition of release it is no problem whatever the government of the day say.We have seen the same propoganda when the derg was releasing political prisoners so no big deal,the time will come when,tplf mafia group will face the court that will not take years as before very soon.Let wait and see….

  9. what a hero!!!!!!
    | #9

    Look she never back down indeed she is the real Hero God bless you.

  10. Real Ethiopian
    | #10

    A real hero. A Mandela like.

  11. fish
    | #11

    What Birtukan said in ETV is the right thing and it clearly shows that those woyanes are so low ,ignorant and they are badly craving for the Ethiopian peoples respect. However, that will never happen because of their incompetence and vulgarism. One thing is very clear from this; the west pinch this ignorant s very well i guess we should thank the true democrats like Sweden,Canada and individuals like Anna Gomez.
    ” Messihe be hageru ayekeberim “

  12. Monde
    | #12

    God thank you for allowing us to see this wonderful day!!

    Birtu is free!!

    Free at last!!

  13. Yegonchaw
    | #13

    This must be one of the best news I/we ever heard for the last twenty years. Who knows the next good news ahead of us?
    God bless! Birtukan, her immediate family and those brave Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia both outside and inside Ethiopia who campaigned tirelessly for her realise.
    Congratulations to you all.
    More good news please!

  14. minilik 2nd
    | #14

    anbessa !yegnawa brtukan!abebayitu adisuwa ethiopia! may God bless u and your family!

  15. jegnaw
    | #15

    first of all ,thanks to God to see birtukan release alive and with out any physical and mental injury from the notorious kaliti prision.thanks to the amnesty international , Ana gomez and peace loving and Democracy seekers inthe country and abroad.Her strength , continious support,and great effort we able to reach the happiest and Historical day.Our leader Birtukan,I hope, under the leadership of you, the party will gain strength and Unity.I have a great hope the party should cleared up from the divider and messanger of woyane.

  16. የ ቕራው
    | #16

    Indeed this is the most joyful moment despite our continued misery under TPLF tyranny and I Thank the Lord for this Day.

    The Unfinished Business:
    I have a strong feeling we may never see another genuine leader in our life time like Birtukan Mideksa so let’s use our time wisely:
    a)Lets minimize the ugly division amongst the opposition groups and join handed as a countrymen.
    b)Let’s start all out diplomatic war on TPLF regime.
    c)Let’s boycott the TPLF (EFFORT) controlled economy to disable it’s leverage of purchasing high-power lobbyist in Washington DC.
    d)Lets work closely with the youth and civic group at home and abroad and start Civil Disobedience.
    e)Every stone has it’s limits how much pressure it could stand. TPLF is a riged stone that is cracking and on the verge of disintegration.

    For the sake of Birtukan and countless Ethiopians who suffered so much, let’s unite and do what’s best for our county today.

    Your perseverance has paid great dividend. Keep up the good fight

    God Bless Ethiopia!

  17. moges
    | #17

    This is a great day for all Ethiopians and the great hero of the Ethiopian people Bertukan.When I heard the news I was speechles .I didnot belive the news until I sow her on the web.Any way thank God she is home for her daughter and the rest of her family.
    God Bless her and her family

  18. Biri
    | #18

    From: Biri Yaya
    Sent: Wed, 6 October, 2010 16:50:25



    I am extremely delighted that our esteemed and courageous sister and leader, Birtukan, is ‘free’ at last. As someone who took on myself the part shared responsibility to campaign for Birtukan’s release as the symbol of the struggle for justice in Ethiopia, this is the moment I would like to thank all for the unified relentless struggle we have been conducting.

    With Birtu’s release, there is still much more to be done in all directions and I hope that we continue to make a contribution whatever form that may take.

    The regime has the opportunity to use this momentum to release all political prisoners and to immediately engage with all the stakeholders in our society.

    Perhaps, this can act as the window of reflection for tyrant MZ and his clique to save themselves from self-destruction and to pave the way for genuine national reconciliation.

    Welcome Birtu, our dear leader and sister!!

    Birtukan is free!

    Ethiopia will be free!


    From: Biri Yaya
    Sent: Sun, 3 October, 2010 12:39:21


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  19. እመቡ
    | #19

    እውንተኛዋ ኢትዮጵያዊት ተፈታለች ደስ ይበለን: ሁላችንም ትምህርት እንውስድ ለሆዳችን ወገናችንን ክምንሽጥ: እንዳኮራሽን ለዘላለም በነጻነት ለምልሚ: ያልሆነ ጥያቂ ጠይቆ ለእስር ያበቁት ይፈሩ ተንኮላቸው ባጭር ተቀጭትዋል:
    ስላም ፍቅር አንድነት ክእትዮጵያ ህዝብ ጋር ለዘላልም ይኑር.

  20. Fikernesh
    | #20

    Praise the good Lord; our Hero is Free, The young Shewargede Gedle, our Rosa Parks and like many others her struggle for Unity, Democracy and Justice will trive with true Ethiopians.

    Long Live the Ethiopian People. our prayers are with all Political Prisoners in Ethiopia.

  21. Anonymous
    | #21

    COngratulations Birtuquan!!! and to your daughter and mom. But you could have been free 646 days ago if you were to ask the pardon! God bless all Ethiopians

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