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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Ethiopia urged to free academics
Students demonstrating
The two men were arrested following the recent student protests
An international human rights organisation has said that two rights activists being held in Ethiopia without charge are "prisoners of conscience".


These human rights defenders are being held... for peacefully carrying out their... work

Amnesty International
Amnesty International said the two men, Professor Mesfin Wolde-Mariam and Berhanu Nega, should be released immediately.

They were arrested on 8 May after being accused by the government of instigating the recent student protests that resulted in the deaths of more than 30 people and damage worth millions of dollars.

The two men have consistently rejected the allegations.

Mesfin Wolde-Mariam and Berhanu Nega are senior members of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council.

Nothing wrong

Amnesty International said: "These human rights defenders are being held solely for peacefully carrying out their legitimate human rights work."

A panel discussion looking at human and academic rights took place between the students and the two men the day before the student protests began.

"We believe that we carried out our duties and taught the students to know and understand their rights.

"The issues we spoke about were pertinent to the human rights provision of the constitution," said Professor Mesfin in a recent interview.

The Ethiopian police says the men made inflammatory speeches at the meeting and incited the violence.

The two men have been twice denied bail with the police saying that it is still carrying out investigations.

They are due in court once again on 25 May.

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See also:

08 May 01 | Africa
Ethiopian academics arrested
21 Apr 01 | Africa
Anger over Ethiopian detainees
18 Apr 01 | Africa
More clashes in Addis Ababa
21 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ethiopia
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