Ethiopia has released 44 Oromo Liberation Front rebels from jail for good behaviour during their imprisonment and for expressing remorse.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the main U.S. ally in the turbulent region, is opposed by a range of rebel groups from remote regions, including the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) which has fought for autonomy for its southern homeland since 1993.
State TV broadcast a statement late on Tuesday by prison administration head Firdu Gebre Tsadik saying some of the 44 OLF prisoners had previously been condemned to death while others were serving life sentences.
« The prisoners, some of whom had served up to ten years, have expressed regret for the crimes they committed and have also shown good behaviour while in jail, » he said.
The footage showed one woman, identified as Asli Mohammed, hailing the amnesty as a new lease of life.
« I regret most sincerely the crime I committed against the government and the people. I shall hereafter dedicate myself to work for peace and development, » she said in Amharic.
OLF officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The government blames the insurgents for several bomb blasts targeting the capital, Addis Ababa, in recent years, and last week it said its forces had killed a senior OLF commander after luring him to a farmer’s house in the west of the country.
Ethiopia accuses arch-foe Eritrea of backing the OLF and other rebels. Asmara denies it, and accuses Meles of oppressive policies that have triggered resistance movements. From 1998 to 2000, the two nations fought a border war in which 70,000 people were killed.
(Reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse)