Sweden condemns arrest of Ethiopian opposition leader

Sweden condemns arrest of Ethiopian opposition leader
Sweden's government on Friday expressed deep concern over the arrest of an Ethiopian opposition leader last week after her pardon from a life sentence was revoked.

“The imprisonment of Birtukan Midekssa is a source of great concern both for her personally and for democratic development in Ethiopia,” Swedish International Development Cooperation Minister Gunilla Carlsson said in a statement.

Authorities arrested and sentenced Birtukan Midekssa, the head of the Unity for Democracy Justice party, to life in prison last week after she reportedly said she had not expressed remorse to obtain a pardon in 2007.

The 35-year-old woman, who was detained with dozens of opposition figures and supporters in the aftermath of disputed 2005 elections, was at the end of December given a three-day ultimatum by the authorities to confirm or deny the reports.

The justice ministry announced on December 30 that she had resumed serving her life term.

“The Scope for democracy and pluralism is shrinking in Ethiopia,” Carlsson said.

“The imprisonment of Mrs Midekssa and the recently adopted law regulating the activities and funding of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) are examples of this negative development,” she said.

She was referring to a law adopted by the Ethiopian parliament on Tuesday barring organisations that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad from working in such fields as human rights.

Birtukan’s party made its most spectacular electoral gains ever in the 2005 polls and cried foul over reported fraud, claiming it was robbed of victory by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s ruling party.

The ensuing unrest left close to 200 people dead and drew international condemnation.

Ethiopia’s next general elections are expected to be held in 2010.