Ethiopia relaxes curbs on political gatherings with new anti-terror law

FILE PHOTO: Ethiopia's PM Ahmed waits for the arrival of EC President von der Leyen before their meeting in Addis Ababa

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia's parliament on Thursday passed an anti-terrorism law that relaxed restrictions on political gatherings, broadening reforms introduced under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The legislation repealed the 2009 anti-terrorism law that said staging gatherings that could cause "serious interference or disruption of any public services" was an act of terrorism.

The new legislation states: "If the disruption of public services was caused by a legally recognised protest, meetings or job strikes, the act will not be taken as a terrorist act."

Since coming to power in 2018, Abiy has implemented a series of reforms that have reshaped public life in Ethiopia.

He made peace with Eritrea, freed political prisoners, and is opening up the economy to foreign investment by loosening state control.

The country is due to hold a general election this year, which will test the popularity of Abiy's reforms.

Under the new law, Ethiopians who suffer abuses at the hands of law enforcement can receive compensation of up to 50,000 Ethiopian Birr ($1,500).

For anyone convicted of terrorism, though, the new law maintains sentences of death or jail terms of 15 years to life.

Although Abiy's reforms have drawn plaudits and won him a Nobel prize, a freer environment has stirred violence in some areas as previously repressed ethnic groups assert their newly found freedom and demand a bigger share of the nation's resources.


(Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Giles Elgood)