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INTERNATIONAL PEN MARKS DAY OF IMPRISONED WRITER

To mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer on 15 November 1998, International PEN featured the case of three journalists jailed in Ethiopia, reports the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC). During a crackdown on journalists and political activists in October 1997 in Oromo, Moti Biyya (his pen name), Garuma Bekele and Tesfaye Deressa were arrested, most likely due to their involvement with the newspaper "Urji" and their activism as members of the Ethiopian Human Rights League. The three men were initially held in solitary confinement for ten months, but, although they may now receive family visitors, they remain detained without charge. International PEN "urges the Ethiopian authorities to order their immediate and unconditional release if they are not promptly charged with a clearly recognizable criminal offence and brought to court." In the meantime the organisation seeks assurance that they are humanely treated whilst in detention.

Biyya, a journalist and writer whose real name is Gamachu Malka Fufa, is a "social anthropologist interested in highlighting the Oromo identity and its specificity. Through his books he is said to be providing Oromo society historical background and coherence." Bekele has also published an historical novel, "One Day in Afaan Oromo" which explains the social political and cultural problems Oromo have been experiencing in East Africa between the 1950s and 1989. Deressa is a song writer, poet and journalist.

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