by Brian Dooley SEVEN ETHIOPIAN women have been released from an Addis Ababa jail following a campaign by friends and relatives to have them set free. (Catholic Herald, (December 11 1987).
The women are all members of the Ethiopian royal family and have been held in prison since 1974, when the Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown and a Marxist government established.
The seven, who are aged between 51 and 76, had been held together in a small, rat-ridden cell and their release at the weekend came as a surprise to themselves and to those in England who had worked towards it.
Some of the women had been educated in England during the 1930s and many of their schoolfriends staged monthly demonstrations outside London's Ethiopian embassy to protest at the detentions.
Help was also enlisted from MPs and MEPs, including David Harris, the Conservative member for St Ives. He said "our campaign has put a lot of pressure on the Marxist government to release the royals".
Three male members of the royal family who were imprisoned with the women have not been freed, and the campaign to have them released will continue.
Sir Bernard Braine MP has also been working for the women's freedom and revealed that had Terry Waite not been kidnapped, he would have gone to Addis Ababa to negotiate with the Ethiopian government for the royals' release.
It is unclear whether the women will wish to settle in England, but the Foreign Office has indicated that they would be welcome.