September 5, 2016
Relatives of people detained in Ethiopia’s Kilinto prison are desperately seeking news of their loved ones after the high-security penitentiary caught fire Saturday.
Mohammed Seid, public and media relations director at the Government Communications Affairs Office, told VOA’s Horn of Africa service that 23 prisoners had died in the blaze.
The prison houses high-profile political prisoners detained amid a wave of deadly anti-government protests, including the former spokesman of the opposition Semayawi (Blue) party, Yonatan Tesfaye, and leaders of the Oromo Federalist Congress party (OFC), deputy chairman Bekele Gerba and deputy secretary-general Dejene Tafa. All three men were arrested in December.
Tafa is a former member of the Ethiopian parliament and a lawyer who represented protesters arrested in Ambo in the Oromia region of central Ethiopia in 2014, when protests first began over a disputed development plan to expand the capital city.
Since November, more than 500 people have been killed in the unrest and thousands have been arrested, according to Human Rights Watch.