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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 August 2007, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Ethiopia opposition members freed
Ethiopian riots. File photo
Ethiopian authorities say nearly 200 died in the disorder after the polls
The Ethiopian authorities have pardoned at least 31 opposition members detained after post-election violence in 2005.

They were jailed along with 38 senior figures - who were freed last month - from the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).

All the freed CUD members and supporters signed a letter of pardon acknowledging a role in the disorder after the polls two years ago.

Ethiopia provoked an international outcry after it jailed the CUD figures.

Two senior CUD leaders, Hailu Shawel and Berhanu Nega, were sentenced to life in jail and then released last month.

It indicates the rule of law is respected in Ethiopia
Ethiopian Prime Minister's spokesman

The CUD accused the government of electoral fraud following the 2005 polls, which saw the opposition party claim its biggest ever gains.

Bereket Simon, an advisor to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, told the Associated Press news agency: "(The freed CUD members) can run for office, they can run their political organisations.

"It is good for Ethiopia because it indicates that the rule of law is respected in Ethiopia."

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Ethiopia says things moved quickly after the government said there would be no pardons until the judicial process was over.

Hoping for a quick release, defendants began to change their plea to guilty and all those who have signed the pardon letter have now been freed, our correspondent says.

The Ethiopian authorities say nearly 200 people were killed in the violence that erupted after the elections two years ago.

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