ETHIOPIA announced Wednesday it would free thousands of inmates from the country’s overcrowded prisons as part of a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Attorney General Adanech Abebe told state media the measure would apply to more than 4 000 prisoners, many of whom are locked up for “petty crimes” and drug offences or have less than a year remaining on their sentences.
“Considering the nature of the transmission of the virus and to end the overcrowding in prisons, the cases of 4 011 prisoners have been discontinued and given pardons,” Adanech said, adding that the releases would begin on Thursday.
Conditions in Ethiopia’s prisons are “harsh and in some cases life threatening,” marred by “gross overcrowding and inadequate food, water, sanitation, and medical care,” according to the latest annual human rights report on Ethiopia from the US State Department.
As of Tuesday evening, Ethiopia had confirmed 12 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, after conducting 480 laboratory tests, according to the Ethiopian Public Health Institute.
Meanwhile, Sudan released 4,217 prisoners on Wednesday as a precaution against the spread of coronavirus, state news agency SUNA said, citing a health ministry official who said those freed had been tested for possible infections.
Sudan, which is in the middle of an economic crisis and transition after the toppling of veteran ruler Omar al-Bashir last year, has confirmed three cases of the coronavirus.
Its health system is in a poor state after years without investment and an exodus of doctors to seek work in Gulf Arab countries.
Sudan, which declared a public health emergency last week, has imposed a nationwide curfew at night to help curb the spread of the coronavirus and closed all its airports, ports and land crossings.
Only humanitarian, commercial and technical support shipments are excluded from the restrictions, according to the ruling council, in charge of the country since Bashir’s ouster.
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