The Ethiopian government has pardoned and freed 38 opposition members sentenced to jail terms of between 18 months and life in connection with post-election violence in 2005. The group includes 30 prominent leaders of the main opposition party Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), including coalition leader Hailu Shawel, and Addis Ababa mayor-elect Berhanu Nega. The pardon allegedly comes after the defendants sent a signed letter to the government admitting their guilt and promising to uphold the law, although according to Reuters news agency CUD has not confirmed this in public. They have had their constitutional electoral rights restored, although it is unclear whether opposition members of parliament will now be able to take up their seats two years after they were elected.
The 38 were arrested towards the end of 2005 in connection with clashes over the local and general elections the previous May, which returned prime minister Meles Zenawi and his Ethiopian People