The renowned business and entrepreneur, Ermias Amelga, was released from prison yesterday, days after the government announced that charges against 63 defendants were going to be dropped for sake of peace and reconciliation. The list includes prominent political figures and former military and security officers.
In a press conference on Thursday, the Office of the Attorney General said that the 63 suspects were standing trail for high profile corruption, misdemeanor or rights violations charges, among other counts.
Ermias was arrested two years ago, accused of selling the former Imperial Hotel at an inflated price to Metal and Engineering Corporation (METEC). He was one of the high profile figures who were detained by police after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) came into power in 2018.
Last year in January, Ermias reportedly denied the charges filed by the Federal Attorney General at the Federal Supreme Court. During the trial, he told the presiding judge that Access real Estate S.C had bought the hotel for 60 million birr and explained that his share of the hotel was a mere five percent, which was owned by more than 6,000 other shareholders.
Furthermore, he insisted that he has cooperated with the police to provide all the necessary information regarding the transaction. “I drove myself to the police but they arrested me,” Ermias expressed his reservations towards the police who took his witness testimony being the same police officer who had detained him for 128 days without evidence of a crime. However, he has remained in prison until now.
Written by journalist and Play Writer, Anteneh Yigzaw, Ermias’s biography was released last year and inaugurated while he was in prison. His biography entitled Yemayseberew (literary meaning ‘unbreakable”) has 294 pages.
This was not the first time Ermias was thrown into jail ever since he had returned home from oversees.
He was arrested at least three times over the past two decades. He was first briefly arrested in 2014, after he was allegedly found writing blank checks with no sufficient bank deposit. Similarly, he was also arrested in 2015 in connection with Access Real Estate.
According to sources The Reporter reached out; Ermias has written a book entitled, ‘Ethiopia at the tipping point,’ while he was in Kilinto Prison Center. The book is currently on the market abroad being sold via Amazon. It was also understood that the book has already been translated to Amharic, this month. It is also expected to be available in the local market.
Along with Ermias, other prominent figures released includes: cadres of the National Movement of Amhara (NAMA), an ethno-nationalist opposition group blamed for attacks last year, which the government described as a regional coup attempt.
Hundreds were arrested in the aftermath of the June violence in northern Ethiopia that left five high-ranking officials dead and heaped a lot of pressure on a government struggling to cope with ethnic tensions.
Those released are among the 1,682 people arrested for various crimes since the coming into power of the new administration in April 2018.The spokesman said cases were filed against more than 3,600 people and many remain at large.
This includes, Getachew Assefa, who has led the National Intelligence Service for decades during the 27 year rule, by the now dissolved Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF)– a four party coalition led by Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Similarly, Biniam Tewolde, a former deputy director of Ethiopia’s Cyber Intelligence agency (INSA), who was jailed in 2018 for corruption charges, is also among those whose cases has been dropped.