Ethiopian journalist's wife urges UK and US to call for his release
The wife of a blogger and journalist detained in Ethiopia has called on the international community to pressure local authorities to release her husband, who is among tens of thousands held since a state of emergency was declared in the emerging east African power last year.
Anania Sorri, a 34-year-old writer and intellectual, was arrested in November on his way to a meeting at the US embassy in Addis Ababa. He is being held in a high security prison in the Ethiopian capital and has not yet been formally charged with any offence.
Bezawit Hailegiorgis, 29, his wife, said his sole crime had been “to express his thoughts honestly”.
“His crime is his determination to speak out. He is a brilliant political journalist. He was critical but always constructive … but being imprisoned is part of the job description of being a journalist here. It’s a zero-sum game, where someone has to lose, and at the moment they are not losing,” she told the Guardian.
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Human rights groups have criticised the failure of western powers to condemn Ethiopia’s recent crackdown, which followed a new wave of protests against the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition.
The US and UK see Ethiopia as a key stabilising actor in east Africa and rarely criticise authorities there. Addis Ababa has long been viewed by both as an important partner in the fight against Islamic militancy in the volatile region. The EU increasingly sees Ethiopia as an important part of the European effort to reduce the flow of migrants from east Africa.
Hailegiorgis said international pressure on the government would prove effective in her husband’s case. “I love my country … and I do understand that this is a sovereign country, but we all live in one system and the UK, the US and others do have leverage. Of course pressure would work,” she said.
Hundreds of people are thought to have been killed and tens of thousands detained in Ethiopia over the last year, though exact figures are unavailable. Opposition groups, mostly based abroad, say the figure is much higher. The government recently said it had released 11,000 detainees.
Scores of senior opposition politicians have been arrested and jailed, as well as bloggers and commentators such as Sorri.