From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Thu Nov 19 2009 - 16:03:46 EST
Ethiopia convicts 27 over coup conspiracy
Thu Nov 19, 2009 5:30pm GMT
By Barry Malone
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - An Ethiopian court convicted 27 serving and former
soldiers on Thursday of planning a coup and found them guilty on other
charges which also carry the death penalty.
"The men were convicted of various offences including conspiring to kill
government officials and conspiring to instruct the army not to obey
government orders," Mekonnen Bezabeih, Justice Ministry spokesman, told
"The maximum sentence for the offences would be the death penalty."
A further 13 men were convicted in absentia on the same charges in August.
That group included Ethiopian-born U.S. citizen, Berhanu Nega, who teaches
economics at Philadelphia's Bucknell University.
Six more men were acquitted on all charges.
Judge Adem Ibrahim warned relatives not to "wail or show emotion" when the
verdict was announced but several people cried as the men were convicted.
Scores of police ringed the courtroom and escorted the men to waiting vans.
Berhanu was elected mayor of capital Addis Ababa in Ethiopia's last
elections in 2005, but was jailed with other opposition leaders after
disputing the government's victory in the election and were accused of
orchestrating street protests.
Security forces killed about 200 protesters who Prime Minister Meles Zenawi
said were marching on government buildings to overthrow him.
"BEATEN AND BEATEN AND BROKEN"
Berhanu was pardoned in 2007 and went to the United States where he set up
his "May 15" opposition group named after the date of the 2005 election.
Prosecution lawyers said Berhanu led the 40 "May 15" members from the United
Addis Ababa says the group had planned to blow up power and telecoms
facilities to provoke protesters who would then march on government
buildings and try to topple the government.
The arrests have worried rights groups, who say the Ethiopian government has
been cracking down on dissent ahead of national elections next May.
Opposition parties say the charges have been trumped up as an excuse to
arrest their members. Relatives of the men say they have been tortured in
"They have been brutalised in prison and so have all the other men," one
relative told Reuters after the conviction.
"Our loved ones have been beaten and beaten and broken so that we don't even
recognize them when they come to court. One man has been blinded."
Rights group Amnesty International says relatives of "May 15" members have
been unfairly arrested. The Ethiopian government denies that.
The men will be sentenced on November 24.
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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