Home | News    Wednesday 23 December 2009

Ethiopia sentences 5 to death, 33 to life on coup plot

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

December 22, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) — An Ethiopian court on Tuesday handed down death penalty to five coup plotters and sentenced life imprisonment to 33 others.

The sentenced plotters, all members of an outlawed Ginbot 7(May 15) opposition movement, were accused of plotting to assassinate top government officials, conspiring to incite rebellion within the army, blow up power and telecom facilities, provoke protests and there by topple Prime minister Meles Zenawi-led Ethiopian government.

In April, The Ethiopian government claimed that it had foiled a plot by the group and said its security men have seized weapons, coup plans and other documents from the hands of these plotters.

"All the convicted five have committed grave offences and four of them have not learnt from their previous sentences," Judge Adam Ibrahim of the federal High Court said.

"Therefore we are left with no choice but to hand down the maximum sentences" he added.

Among those sentenced to death was Berhanu Nega, an associate professor of economics at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania who founded and leads the exiled opposition movement ,labelled by Ethiopian government as a ‘‘terrorist’’ group.

Three, among the five sentenced to death were sentenced in absentia.

All but two of the defendants in Ethiopian custody have proclaimed their innocence. On special consideration, the two defendants who admitted their guilt were sentenced to 10 years.

Last month, court in Ethiopia handed down guilty verdict against 27 defendants. Earlier - in August court in absentia convicted 13 others, most living in exile in the same case. Six were acquitted after court found no solid evidence to support the charges.

Many of the convicts are former or serving army members.

Last month, Chief prosecutor in Ethiopia’s coup plot case has asked court death penalty against the convicted group.

The defendants’ relatives and lawyers said they would appeal the sentences.