Addis Ababa: The Ethiopian government on Wednesday released Merera Gudina, Chairman of Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).
He was released as the Ethiopian government had discontinued criminal and terror charges against him and 527 others as part of its pledge to build national consensus.
Gudina, who was received by thousands of supporters in his resident city, Burayu, 15 km west of capital Addis Ababa, was in prison for 413 days for allegedly conspiring with an outlawed rebel group Ginbot 7.
He had vehemently denied the allegations stating they were politically motivated and he was a peaceful political activist.
"Our party, myself remained legal and we were operating in a legal framework all along," he told journalists.
Nevertheless, Gudina emphasized the Ethiopian government needs to keep its words on political reform and release of still imprisoned political activists including Bekele Gerba, Deputy Chair of OFC.
"How to deal with government call for national dialogue, if it's real and honest we are for it. We expect rest of our members remaining in prison will be out soon, if the government will follow up, it will be a real breakthrough in this country," he said.
While Gudina is already looking forward to future negotiations with the Ethiopian government, his supporters took the day as simply one to celebrate their leader's freedom.
Ethiopia faced in 2016 unrest that killed hundreds, dubbed by analysts the gravest challenge to the ruling coalition, Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front in 25 years.
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The unrest involving parts of the populous regions of Amhara, Oromia and Southern led to an imposition of martial law in October 2016 which was only lifted in August 2017.