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Ethiopia Convicts 27 in coup plot, acquits five.

By Tefa alem Tekle November 20, 2009 (ADDIS ABABA) -- The federal court of Ethiopia on Thursday handed down guilty verdict on 27 retired and serving Army officers who were accused of conspiring coup plot earlier on the year. "The evidences and witness brought by prosecutors against the stated 27 defendants proves that they are guilty of all five counts" judge Adem Ibrahim said. The court acquitted 5 defendants as it couldn't find sufficient evidence enough to support their guilt, he added. Ethiopia has convicted 40 of the total 46 men it accused of coup plot. In August court in absentia convicted 13 others on the same charge. Six including one acquitted in earlier hearing are freed of all charges. The convicted 40 men, which include two generals and opposition political figures were charged with plot to assassinate government ministers, to blow up power and telecom facilities, to dismantle constitutional order and then to march onto government buildings create havoc and there by topple prime Minster Meles Zenawi-led government Defendants told court that they were tortured in custody by police for confession. However Judge Adem said that his three--judge panel was not convinced by the allegation. According to a source from state ministry of Justice the convicted 40 members of an exiled opposition group (Ginbot 7) could face up to death penalty. Ethiopian court in April opened a case against them after Ethiopian Authorities then said that they found them with weapons and documents indicating the plot which they said were masterminded by a US-based professor and founder of the group, Birhanu Nega. Birhanu was elected as mayor of Addis Ababa in the disputed 2005 elections, but did not take office and was among opposition leaders jailed for life on charges of fomenting post-election violence. After being pardoned, Birhanu went to the United States and founded the political organization Ginbot seven, or may 15, named after the date of the 2005 election. The party has since been outlawed, and he is among those recently convicted in absentia. Rights groups have expressed concern that the Ethiopian government is trying to silence dissent before nation holds its upcoming national election scheduled for May next year. (ST)

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Publication:Sudan Tribune (Sudan)
Date:Nov 21, 2009
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