Mass protest organizers found guilty in Ethiopia

1126.jpgA court in Ethiopia has found 38 senior opposition figures guilty of charges connected to mass protests after disputed elections two years ago.  The charges ranged from armed rebellion to “outrage against the constitution”.Sentencing is next month and they could face the death penalty. Hundreds of thousands took part in demonstrations complaining of fraud and vote-rigging by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s government in the 2005 polls.

Almost 200 people died in two waves of protests. The opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy blamed the deaths on the security forces but Mr. Meles accused the opposition of starting the violent protests.

His government also points out that it introduced multi-party elections to Ethiopia after years of military rule. In the elections, the opposition made huge gains but says it was cheated out of victory.

Two months ago a judge threw out controversial charges of attempted genocide and treason against 111 people arrested after the election protests. The violence and the charges of election fraud have tarnished Mr. Meles’ image as a favorite of Western donors and one of a new wave of reforming African leaders.

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