Ethiopian opposition to contest jailed leader’s life sentence

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Ethiopian opposition leader Bertukan Mideksa, has begun serving life in jail after she was re-arrested for snubbing the government’s call to apologise for alleged remarks rebuffing her pardon while in Europe.

The leader of a coalition of political parties, who was released from jail after serving more than one and a half years for ‘treason’, was re-arrested Monday and sent back to prison to serve the remainder of her life sentence behind bars.

Mideksa, an Ethiopian lawyer and former judge, who rallied the country behind her during the 2005 general elections, was released a year ago from prison after reportedly acknowledging her crime and requesting for a state pardon, which was granted.

She was later reported to have told journalists while on a tour of Sweden that her release from jail was the result of political negotiations and was not out of government sympathy.

The remarks sent the Federal Police after her and the Police issued several summons to her to record a statement on her remarks and possibly denounce them as media propaganda, which she categorically declined to do, leading to her re-arrest.

Her opposition coalition, the Unity for Democracy and Justice, was infuriated with the decision to arrest her and promised to challenge the decision in court.

Ethiopia is bracing for elections in 2010 but it is not yet known whether the opposition will participate.

The opposition insists her arrest is part of a plan by the ruling party to create a single party in the country.

Ethiopian bloggers widely commented on her arrest Wednesday but the Justice Ministry reiterated that her arrest was legal and not political.

Politicians allied to her party said they would soon seek a court interpretation of the conditions of pardon, often granted by a pardon board.

Ethiopian prisoners are usually eligible for pardon or parole, depending on their conduct while in prison.

Former Prime Minister Tamrat Leyne was released two weeks ago after serving two thirds of her imprisonment for embezzlement of state funds and abuse of power.

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