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Ethiopia frees Muslims jailed after protests over religion

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopia's chief prosecutor said Saturday that the country pardoned hundreds of convicts, among them Muslims jailed under anti-terror laws for opposing what they called government interference in their religion.

The president signed the pardon for members of the Muslim groups after they expressed regret, Prosecutor-General Getachew Ambaye was quoted as saying by the state-run Ethiopian News Agency.

Around 1,000 people have been pardoned before the Ethiopian new year and Eid celebrations on Sunday and 135 of them were serving a time on anti-terrorism charges and for religious extremism, Getachew said.

Ethiopia handed long jail terms to many Muslims who were involved in months-long protests in 2012, accusing the government of unconstitutionally encouraging a moderate teaching of Islam called Al-Ahbash and dictating the election of community leaders to support it at an Addis Ababa religious school.

Among those released was Yusuf Getachew, editor-in-chief of Ye Muslimoch Guday (Muslim Affairs), who has been imprisoned since his arrest in July 2012, a relative of the journalist told the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"We are elated that Yusuf Getachew has finally been released from prison, but he should never have been jailed in the first place," said Angela Quintal, CPJ's Africa program coordinator. "We call on the Ethiopian authorities to immediately release all other journalists imprisoned in the country for their work."

Yusuf was serving a seven-year sentence on anti-terrorism charges, after being convicted in August 2015, three years after his arrest, according to CPJ. During a court hearing in 2012, Yusuf said he was beaten in custody, local journalists told CPJ at the time, according to the group.

Ethiopia is the third worst jailer of journalists in Africa, with 10 journalists imprisoned there at the time of CPJ's last prison census.

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