The European Parliament announced the winner of the coveted Sakharov Prize for
Freedom of Thought on 21 October 2010. Out of the three finalists for the Prize including
Ms. Birtukan Mideksa, the Cuban human rights activist was crowned the winner. This
coveted international prize, equivalent to the Noble Peace Price is awarded to individuals
or organizations that show extreme bravery and courage battling the abuse of human
rights and freedom of expression.
We take this opportunity to congratulate Dr. Guillermo Farinas, a 48-year-old
psychologist and freelance journalist who spent three weeks in the hospital this year after
a 134-day hunger strike to force the government of Cuba to release opposition leaders
jailed in 2003. The decision to give this year’s award to Farinas came four days before
European Union foreign ministers meet in Luxembourg to discuss the 27-nation bloc’s
relations with Cuba.
The fact that Lady Liberty, Ms. Birtukan Mideksa, made it to the final should be a matter
of great pride to millions of her supporters and an achievement, which we Ethiopians in
particular should rejoice tremendously.
The EU Parliament has also sent a powerful
message to the grave human rights violator, tyrant Meles. Ms. Birtukan Mideksa is
indeed a bright star for the African continent - not only for Ethiopia.
It is a matter of indelible record that Ms. Birtukan Mideksa:
As a young judge of the higher courts, she displayed unwavering commitment to
the implementation of the law and refused to bend to the pressure of the regime,
which routinely uses the courts to rubberstamp wonton imprisonment of
dissidents including opposition leaders and members of the free press. Ms.
Birtukan Mideksa became a marked enemy after she set innocent victims of the
Her experience in the Kangaroo courts of Ethiopia led her to believe that there
should be real alternative to the regime in power. She joined a group of academics
and activists to form a vibrant party, which later transformed into Coalition for
Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP). Ms. Birtukan Mideksa was elected Vice
President of CUDP, the first female to occupy such a political office.
Within a matter of months, CUDP won the hearts and minds of an overwhelming
portion of the Ethiopian population. At the 2005 election, which was monitored
by international observers, it won all the seats in the capital city, Addis Ababa,
which has a population of 4 million. When it became clear CUDP was winning in
the countryside as well, the government blatantly rigged the ballots and declared
In the ensuing popular protest government forces killed hundreds while thousands
were imprisoned. CUDP leaders, including Ms. Birtukan Mideksa, were tried
under trumped up charges and sentenced to life imprisonment by the regime’s
Under mounting local and international pressure, the government coined a face
saving “pardon” and released Ms. Birtukan Mideksa and other political prisoners.
Ms. Birtukan Mideksa’s imprisonment, her foresight and fortitude has made her
ever more popular in Ethiopia. As she continued the task of organizing her party,
renamed as Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), the government saw her as
serious threat and looked for the slightest pretext to throw her back to prison.
The pretext for her re-imprisonment and life-sentence is so blatant that nobody in
Ethiopia, including the regime’s own cadres believes it. Neither did the
international community, which has joined the Ethiopian people in campaigning
for her release.
Further evidence that Ms. Birtukan Mideksa is victim of government bullying is
the denial of her basic rights as a prisoner including visitation by family members,
lawyers and friends. Only her sick, 75 year old mother and 5-year-old daughter
are allowed to visit her once a week. One can say Ms. Birtukan Mideksa was in
The global community including the UN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty
International, the EU Parliament and the US Department of State has judged her
second arrest illegal.
It is quite obvious from the aforesaid that Ms. Birtukan Mideksa’s daughter Hale has
suffered from the absence of irretrievable motherly love for almost 40 months and for as
many months her septuagenarian mother, W/ro Almaz, has lost the support of her
daughter – the only bread winner in the family. The family had to endure physical and
mental torture in full view of the global community.
It is admitted that there is a strong link between human rights and peace. Ms. Birtukan
Mideksa is definitely a formidable advocate of human rights and on the world scene in
view of her invaluable sacrifice so far made. She deserves unequivocal respect and
support of all Ethiopians, civil societies and political parties at home and human rights
organizations and activists abroad.
Honorable Ana Gomes, in her capacity as leader of EU Election Observer Mission, saw
the enthusiastic participation of the Ethiopian people in the first ever-democratic election
of 2005. She saw the genuine quest of the people for freedom. Therefore she stood firm
and resolute not to let perpetrators of deceit and robbers of votes go scot free.
Honorable Gomes deserves our appreciation in the defence of liberty and democracy for
the people of Ethiopia. We also extend our gratitude to the honorable Senators Russell
Feingod, Dick Durbin, Johnny Isakson, and Patrick Leahy and House Representatives
Donald Payne, Chris Smith and Mike Honda and the filmmaker Chris Flaherty.
We thank all our supporters for fighting for the release of Ms. Birtukan Mideksa from jail
and in the effort to secure her nomination for the Sakharov Prize deserve our deep
The struggle for the release of all political prisoners shall be intensified until all of them
are free and, surely, until freedom of expression is taken for granted in Ethiopia.
Remember injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!
For Task Force for the Free Birtukan and All Prisoners of Conscience in Ethiopia.
Free Birtukan Dot Org
PO Box 3158
Cypress, CA 90630