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Last Updated: Friday, 24 June, 2005, 18:30 GMT 19:30 UK
Ethiopia 'frees poll protesters'
Hundreds are still held after the arrests
It is not known exactly how many are still in custody
Authorities in Ethiopia say they have released nearly 2,700 people who were detained after election protests turned violent earlier this month.

Federal police said those freed were found to be "minor offenders" who did not deserve prosecution.

They had been held at a military camp south of the capital, Addis Ababa. Hundreds more were still being detained, police said.

At least 36 people died in early June when police opened fire on protesters.

Thousands of opposition figures, activists and supporters were arrested at the same time, after three days of protests against alleged electoral fraud in parliamentary polls held in May.

The decision to free many of them came after foreign diplomats visited the military camp where they were being held to check on conditions.

We have released them with advice and warnings to mind their business
Ethiopian Federal Police statement
Irish, Swedish and American diplomats visited the camp at Ziway, about 150km (90 miles) south of Addis Ababa, on Wednesday.

They said they saw about 2,000 prisoners there, but hundreds of detainees were reportedly freed before the envoys were allowed to inspect the site.

More held

Ethiopia's federal police said 3,132 people were being held at Ziway before the release of the 2,665 prisoners announced on Friday.

Army in Addis Ababa
The government says it is determined to prevent anarchy
A police statement said: "We have released them with advice and warnings to mind their business and to go about their day-to-day life as usual.

"The rest will be charged and appear in court for a different degree of direct involvement," said the statement, carried by the official Ethiopian News Agency.

Human rights groups claimed many more than 3,000 were arrested. It was unclear if the 467 still being held at Ziway were the last remaining in custody.

The police statement added that some of those still being held there could yet be freed due to insufficient evidence.

Final results from May's poll have still not been released because of continuing investigations into alleged fraud.

Provisional results showed the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allies winning a majority, but the opposition disputes the results.


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