|Meles Zenawi's government intolerant of dissent|
|Written by The Independent|
|Wednesday, 04 February 2009|
Birtukan Mideksa has been sentenced to life in prison. She spends her days and nights in solitary confinement in a two-metre by two-metre cell. She cannot leave it to see daylight or even to receive visitors. Previous inmates say the prison is often unbearably hot.
The judge, aged 34, is the head of Ethiopia's most popular political party, the only female leader of a main opposition party in Africa.
The government in Addis Ababa had her arrested on 28 December, claiming she had violated the terms of an earlier pardon.
Professor Woldemariam, one of a few people still prepared to speak out in a country he describes as a "police state", says the regime had become frightened of Ms Mideksa. "They are looking for any excuse to get her because she's a dynamic girl who is getting increasingly popular. They want to cut her short."
Ethiopia's Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, has been in power since 1995. He was formerly feted as a progressive voice by Tony Blair but he has become markedly dictatorial during his years in power. One regional analyst said the government was becoming increasingly paranoid.
The arrest of Ms Mideksa has sparked criticism from some American senators and the hope that the Obama administration might change Washington's relationship with the Zenawi government.
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