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Ethiopia Admits Higher Death Toll in Opposition Protests


Ethiopian officials say the death toll from last year's post-election violence was 199 - three times the figure given earlier by the government.

A panel that investigated the violence formally presented its findings to parliament and reporters in Addis Ababa Thursday.

The new death toll matches the number given by former panel vice chairman Wolde-Michael Meshesha, who recently fled Ethiopia and has spoken to Western reporters.

But the panel's report is at odds with Meshesha's claim that Ethiopian police used excessive force in putting down opposition protests.

The panel's chairman Mekonnen Disasa said today that police took legal and necessary measures to prevent greater violence. The report says human rights violations were committed but does not elaborate.

The protests broke out in June and November of last year, after elections in which the government claimed victory but that opposition parties say were rigged.

The new official death toll includes 193 civilians and six policemen.

Meshesha said that before he left Ethiopia, eight of the panel's 10 members agreed that police had used excessive violence. He said Prime Minister Meles Zenawi direclty pressured the team to alter its findings.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.
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