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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Ethiopia's chief prosecutor says the country has pardoned hundreds of convicts, among them Muslims jailed under anti-terror laws for opposing what they called government interference in their religion. Prosecutor-General Getachew Ambaye said Saturday that the president signed the pardon for members of the Muslim groups after they expressed regret. Getachew says that around 1,000 people have been pardoned ahead of the Ethiopian new year on Sunday and 135 of them were serving a time for terrorism charges and for religious extremism. 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.
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Many Ethiopian singers have cancelled their concerts to welcome in Ethiopia’s New Year, which falls this year on 11 September.
Ethiopians will be ushering in 2009 on Sunday as their calendar is more than seven years out of sync with the one used in much of the rest of the world.
But some singers are planning to put a dampener on the celebrations that take place on New Year’s Eve.
They say it would not be good to celebrate when people are mourning those who have died in recent protests.
At least 17 singers have backed out of gigs to be held in various venues in the capital, Addis Ababa, and other cities.
Oromo singer Abush Zeleke was among those who announced their decision on their official Facebook page.
Seems there'll be no concert in Addis on new year's eve. Last remaining concert of Lij Michael; canceled.
Some Ethiopian musicians who live abroad are following suit.
US-based singer, Abby Lakew, announced she had cancelled all her shows in Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and Las Vegas:
I do not want to perform on any stage as of right now while my people are dying!!!
I will pray for peace and I believe in one love!!! All people should be treated equally, with the same rights, dignity and human rights."
There has been an unprecedented wave of protests in Ethiopia in recent months.
Demonstrations began in the Oromia region last November and have spread elsewhere.
And over the weekend at least 23 inmates died in a fire at a prison where anti-government protesters were reportedly being held.
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No monies from the EU’s flagship Emergency Trust Fund (ETF) for Africa goes to the Ethiopian government or its agencies, the Commission stressed yesterday (6 September), as human rights groups say more than 400 people have been killed in clashes with the government.
The ETF was set up last year, at the Valleta migration summit, in an attempt to mitigate the ‘pull’ factors behind uncontrolled migration from sub-Saharan Africa to Europe, in the wake of the migration crisis.
Ethiopia, with a stable and West-friendly government in the Horn of Africa, is one of the major recipients of the trust fund, which aims to improve life chances and livelihoods in some of the world’s poorest countries.
However, the authoritarian government in Addis Ababa has long been the butt of accusations over its treatment of the Oromia people and their region – which surrounds the capital.
Since November 2015 – when Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker signed the ETF – some 400 people have been killed by Ethiopian government security forces during protests, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Thousands more have been detained.
Amnesty International says over 100 people were killed at a demonstration in early August.
This week, the situation deteriorated further, with the deaths of at least 23 inmates in a fire at a prison believed to be holding detained protestors.
Pictures showed smoke billowing from the jail, but the BBC cited local media reporting the sound of gunfire from the Qilinto prison.
Pressed by EurActiv.com on whether the Commission had a view on the unrest in one of its key partners in sub-Saharan Africa, and whether the ETF contained a mechanism for either reviewing or even suspending payments through the Emergency Trust Fund, a spokesman was quick to point out that no monies were channelled directly through the government in Addis Ababa, or any government agencies.
In an emailed statement later, it added, “As far as the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa is concerned, it is important to know that no funding are decentralised to, or channelled through, the beneficiary countries’ government structures.
“This of course also applies to Ethiopia.”
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The Ethiopian government was the target of harsh words from protesters in Winnipeg on Tuesday.
The activists accuse government forces of limiting human rights and cracking down on dissent. They are demanding Canada institute economic sanctions on the East African nation, similar to those placed on South Africa during apartheid.
Protester Shegitu Aredo said Ethiopia takes the millions of dollars it receives in aid from the United States and Canada and uses it "as a weapon against its own people."
"In Ethiopia, a lot of people are being marginalized and murdered for standing up for their human rights," she said.
Fellow protester Fetno Kemo said the world needs to see and understand the abuses happening in his home country.
"We are here to show solidarity with our people … and be a voice for our people who are dying," said Kemo.
According to Human Rights Watch, government forces have killed at least 100 anti-government protestors in recent weeks and hundreds more since November.
During the country's election in 2015, Ethiopia's ruling coalition party won all the parliament seats, effectively cutting out critical voices, said the organization.
Human Rights Watch also alleges Ethiopia has conducted arbitrary arrests and passed laws to limit non-governmental activity.
Canada remains one of the largest humanitarian aid contributors to Ethiopia.
Between 2014 and 2015 Canada sent $108 million to the African nation, according to Global Affairs Canada.