Ethiopia Students Insist on Freedom for Detainees
Reuters- Story Filed: Wednesday, April 25, 2001 9:27 AM EST
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopian students stayed away from classes for a second day on Wednesday to press their demands for the release of fellow students arrested during violent riots last week.
``To expect us to go back to class when most of the students are still languishing in jail is unrealistic,'' a fourth-year law student who declined to be identified said.
The authorities reopened Addis Ababa University on Tuesday a week after it was closed following a confrontation between the authorities and students demanding academic and political freedoms. The stand-off degenerated into the capital's worst civil unrest in years.
Hundreds of students congregated for a second day outside the main gate of the university and some of the other faculties, watched by plain-clothes police and small groups of riot police armed with automatic rifles.
Medical sources said 41 people were killed in clashes between rioters and police that erupted when police entered the university campus on the orders of the education ministry to protect property and ensure classes continued.
Private newspapers said more than 2,000 people were arrested, including students and opposition activists. Most are believed still held.
The government has put the death toll at 31. It blames most of the violence on what it called gangsters and jobless youths who took advantage of the tension to loot and destroy private property.
University authorities demanded that any student returning to class sign a form apologizing for disrupting teaching last week, a demand students reject as an unacceptable admission of guilt.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in his first reaction to the riots, repeated government accusations that unnamed political organizations had incited the rioting to try to weaken his administration.
``The looting and property destruction was mainly carried out by organized hooligans and vagabonds,'' he was quoted as saying by the state-run Ethiopian News Agency.
He said those behind the riots had assumed wrongly that his Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) government had been weakened -- a reference to recent splits over policy among members of the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the dominant group in the EPRDF.
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