19 February 2019

Ethiopia Charges Eight Former Prison Officials in Connection With Deadly Qilinto Prison Fire

The federal attorney general's office has filed charges on eight former prison officials in connection with the September 2016 deadly fire at Qilinto federal maximum security prison located in the southern outskirt of the capital Addis Abeba.

According to the charges, the eight former prison officials are accused of firing on inmates following the fire that broke out at prisoners' quarter in the morning of Saturday September 03/2016. By the government's own admission, 23 inmates were killed, many of whom burned by the fire.

But several other accounts, including a letter sent to Addis Standard by a guard on duty, say the victims died as a result of indiscriminate shooting by prison security guards of duty.

The charges further accuse the eight suspects of severely torturing survivors of the fire when around 400 prisoners were transferred to Shewa Robit federal prison after the fire. The accused officers are: Superintendent Asgele Weldegiorgis, officer Gebremariam Welday, Chief Superintendent Assefa Kidane, Superintendent Gebre Egziabher Gebrehawaryat, Superintendent Teklay Hailu, Superintendent Adane Hagos, Superintendent Gebrat Mekonnen and Superintendent Abu Girma. They are among the 33 former security and intelligence officials facing charges of gross human rights abuses.

A report by th gov's rights body, #Ethiopia Human Rights Commission admitted security guards have fired at prisoners during the #QilintoFire pic.twitter.com/xVedPOSzcb

- Addis Standard (@addisstandard) July 21, 2017

178 prisoners, many of whom serving lengthy prison terms for terrorism related offenses, were charged with criminal offenses accused of deliberately starting the fire. Most, if not all, of those prisoners were set free in February last year when Ethiopia released thousands of prisoners follwing the resignation of former PM Hailemariam Desalegn.

See below Addis Standard's historic archive on the chronology of the Qilinto Fire and the subsequent crackdown on prisoners of conscience.


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