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HomeNewsInternational NewsEthiopian officials accused of extorting Tigrayan detainees

Ethiopian officials accused of extorting Tigrayan detainees

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Civilians held without charge accuse Ethiopian security officers of systematic extortion and increasing abuse.

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(Al Jazeera) – Ethiopian security officers have been systematically extorting and abusing Tigrayan civilians held without charge, including minors and the elderly, since a wave of nationwide mass arrests began last year, according to alleged victims and their families.

Estimates say thousands of civilians have been rounded up since the conflict between rebels from the country’s northern Tigray region and Ethiopia’s national army began 15 months ago.

At least 1,000 Tigrayans – including United Nations staff – were arrested in two weeks in November 2021 in the capital Addis Ababa, according to the UN.

The Ethiopian government says it only targets those suspected of supporting the rebels. But as profiling and detentions increased, so did the extortion of detainees by police and prison wardens, according to victims and relatives of victims who spoke to Al Jazeera over the past month.

“We have become a commodity in prison,” said Kirubel*, who spent up to seven months detained in an Addis Ababa facility until his family paid for his release. “They slap a price on you. Then your loved ones have to find the money and buy your freedom.”

Prison wardens, government prosecutors and officials from the local attorney general’s offices are among those alleged to have demanded exorbitant bribes for release. Detainees also told Al Jazeera that payments are often required to secure medicine, and in some cases to use toilets and showers throughout their indefinite detentions.

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