African Press International (API)

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Ethiopian Supreme Court passes death sentence on Mengistu, 19 others

Posted by African Press International on May 27, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.apa

Ethiopias Supreme Court on Monday passed a death sentenced on former Marxist ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam who is now living in exile in Zimbabwe after being deposed by the current government 17 years ago.

Last year, the Ethiopian high court passed life imprisonment on Mengistu and other former government officials who were accused of genocide during the red terror political campaign in the country.

However, the prosecutors appealed to the Supreme Court against the sentence, saying that Mengistu and his co-accused should instead be punished with the death penalty.

It was with this background that Ethiopias Supreme Court passed the death sentences on Monday on Mengistu and19 other defendants while one former colonel in the Ethiopian army had his sentenced to life imprisonment upheld.

The former president, who ruled Ethiopia for 17 years, is unlikely to face punishment unless Zimbabwes President Robert Mugabe agrees to hand him to Ethiopia.

Zimbabwe, which gave asylum to Mengistu since 1991 has repeatedly refused to hand him over to Ethiopia.

“Considering the prosecutions appeal that a life sentence was not commensurate with the crimes committed by the Mengistu regime, the court decided to sentence him to death,” the Supreme Court said in its ruling on Monday.

Mengistu, according to the court, was found guilty of genocide for thousands of killings during his 17-year rule.

According to the charge, Mengistu and other dozens of former military officials were accused of the killing of over 2,000 people and the torture of at least 2,400.

Witnesses earlier told the court that family members who went to collect the bodies of their loved ones were asked to pay for the bullets that killed them, and the evidence produced against them included videos of the torture sessions.

Mengistu seized power in 1974 after the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie, and clawed his way to the top in the military junta called the Derg.

His regimes brutality was exemplified by the Red Terror purges of 1977-78, in which at least 1,200 suspected political opponents were murdered and their bodies dumped in the streets as a warning to others.

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API

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