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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK
Ethiopian students released
Police corner a demonstrator
Many protesters were beaten in Addis's worst riots for 10 years
More than 2,000 Ethiopian university students were released from police custody on Thursday.

The students were arrested last week following riots that left 39 people dead and 250 injured.

They were bussed in from a detention camp just outside Addis Ababa in the early hours of the morning.

But the students are saying that some of their colleagues are still being detained.

The Ethiopian authorities reopened the University of Addis Ababa on Tuesday after it had been closed for five days.

Detained students
Authorities say the detainees were not mistreated
The students were given two days in which to re-register for their courses but most students have chosen not to.

They had said that they would not return to classes until the police released their colleagues.

But the university authorities have said that any student returning to class must sign a declaration expressing regret for the disturbances and pledging that any future demands would be made peacefully.

Many students have refused to sign the pledge.

Discontent?

A senior Ethiopian official, Yemane Kidane, dismissed accusations by opposition activists that the unrest signalled popular discontent with the government.

He told Reuters news agency that jobless youths and gangsters had taken advantage of the student demonstrations to launch an orgy of theft and destruction and he said there would now be a crackdown on criminal gangs in the capital.

"Never in the history of Ethiopia have we seen this gangsterism. Student protests have always been peaceful," he said.

"There is big unemployment in Addis that perpetuates that kind of gangsterism. It's fertile ground for criminals."

Mr Yemane, who is chief of staff at the foreign ministry, also defended the police shootings of protestors saying they had the right to defend the security of people and their property.

Mr Yemane said the detained students and anyone with no case to answer would be released in stages.

"They will be released step by step, selectively, the students earlier than anyone else," he said.

"Suspected criminals would be taken to court, and the guilty would be sentenced and taught a lesson," he said.

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See also:

21 Apr 01 | Africa
Anger over Ethiopian detainees
18 Apr 01 | Africa
More clashes in Addis Ababa
17 Apr 01 | Africa
'Brutal' attack by Addis police
21 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ethiopia
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