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
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