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23rd  March 2010

  After she spent more than six months in solitary confinement

 Extreme concern for physical and mental health


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Birtukan Mideksa


Source : The Free Birtukan and all Prisoners of Conscience in Ethiopia  




Information we have obtained in the past few days regarding Birtukan's physical and mental health have concerned us in the extreme.  Birtukan's situation has been steadily getting worse since she was released from solitary confinement, where she spent more than six monthsHowever, the following recent events have heightened our concern. An appeal was launched on March 23rd 2010.


Birtukan's mother, Mrs. Almaz Gebregziabher, visited Birtukan on March 20, 2010.  During the visit, Birtukan asked Mrs. Gebregziabher to petition for medical care on her behalf since prison administrators have refused her request to see a physician.  Mrs. Gebregziabher reported   on  March 21, 2010 that Birtukan was whisked out of the visitation room by security officers as soon as she made her plea for medical care.

Birtukan's sister has now been permanently banned from visiting Birtukan


This was a deliberate action by the government to prevent any leakage of information.  Birtukan's sister is better able to communicate with Birtukan than the only other person who is allowed to visit her; the ailing 76 year old mother, Mrs. Gebregziabher.

The government controlled media seems to be engaged in a preemptive propaganda aimed at talking-up Birtukan's health in prison.  The Prime minister himself responded to a pre-arranged question that singled out Birtukan's health above all other political questions surrounding her imprisonment

The 2009 report on Human Rights in Ethiopia by the US state department, released March 11, 2010 warned that "There were credible reports that Birtukan's mental health deteriorated significantly during the year." 


Click here to read the full report.


Birtukan Mideksa is in need of urgent medical care and that she continues to be at a high risk of abuse by the authorities.  The Ethiopian government has so far refused repeated requests for visits by medical professionals.  





Please demand Birtukan Mideksa receive urgent medical care.  Click here to find your representatives.  The Free Birtukan organization will soon post campaign and lobby materials on this web site.



 A biography : Woizero Birtukan Mideksa, 35, is a lawyer  coming from the Oromo community, developed as a distinct political and ethnic group some time in the 16th century in southern Ethiopia. Young, educated and charismatic, she is a single mother and responsible for her frail mother. Before turning into full time politics, she came to national attention in 2002 when she served briefly as a Supreme Court judge made headlines over a crucial court case involving the prime minister as a plaintiff and his political opponent, former Defense Minister Siye Abraha, as a defendant. An example of her judicial integrity is the following.  Judge Birtukan set Siye (a former government official) free, ruling there was no evidence to keep the defendant in jail over alleged corruption charges.  Meles dispatched his security men to the court, reversed the ruling, and sent the former TPLF official back to prison.  Siye had accused Meles of treason as an Eritrean agent who foiled Ethiopia s counter-offensive against Eritrean invasion in the previous war.Her verdict on the case and feminist activism brought her into the lime light.


She was elected as the first Vice president of the  Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), and was arrested among hundreds of people detained after demonstrations in the capital, Addis Ababa, on 1 and 2 November, in protest at the contested results of the parliamentary election which took place on 15 May. CUD members won seats in parliament as well as other electoral positions in May 2005. However, the results of the election, in which the ruling party retained control, were disputed. Election monitors reported vote-rigging and the CUD reported harassment and intimidation of its members. Protesters demonstrating against the results were fired on by government forces and at least 187 people were killed. Thousands were then arrested, including scores of opposition parliamentarians, opposition party leaders, journalists and human rights defenders.


Birtukan Mideksa was among those arrested and adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. In 2006 she was charged with treason, alongside other CUD leaders, parliamentarians, journalists and human rights defenders.


On July 16th, 2007  Ethiopia's high Court sentenced Bertukan Mideksa and other CUD opposition leaders to life imprisonment for inciting rebellion, after the prosecution had asked for the death penalty.Prosecutors   had requested the death penalty for 38 of the defendants, who were among scores put on trial on charges of inciting the violence following the disputed polls which the ruling party won but the opposition claims were rigged.The opposition leaders had refused to recognize the court and did not enter a plea, saying the trial was political.


Birtukan Mideksa was released along with 37 otherson July 20th after being  granted a full pardon by Ethiopian President after the opposition leaders could have signed a letter admittingmistakes committed both individually and collectively”. The exact terms of negotiations, led by local elders, and conditions of pardon remain unclear.

Birtukan Mideksa became the leader of the Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) party, one of several parties that split off from the former Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).

In November 2008, Burtukan Mideksa spoke at a public meeting in Sweden about the process leading to her release. Ethiopian government officials responded by accusing her of denying that she had asked for a pardon, and shortly afterwards, the Ministry of Justice issued a statement revoking her pardon and reimposing her original life sentence.

Birtukan Mideksa was rearrested on 28 December and has been held without charge since then, in solitary confinement in Kaliti Prison outside Addis Ababa, in a cell measuring 2m square. She has been on a hunger strike, drinking liquids only, in protest at her detention. Her immediate family have been allowed to visit her, but she has had no access to legal representation or medical treatment.


RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in English or your own language:
- calling on the authorities to release Birtukan Mideksa immediately and unconditionally ;
- expressing concern that she must
receive urgent medical care. 
- expressing concern that she is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression and association;
- urging the authorities to give her access to legal representation of her own choosing and any medical assistance she may require, particularly in the light of her hunger strike.




Minister of Justice
Berhan Hailu
PO Box 1370
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 5517775
+251 11 5520874
Salutation: Dear Minister


Ambassador Dr Kassa Gebreheywot
Chief Commissioner,
Ethiopian Human Rights Commission
PO Box 1165
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Fax: +251 11 2511 1618 0041



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