News

    Ethiopia Asks Death Penalty For Coup Plotters

    Prosecutors in Ethiopia are seeking the death penalty for 40 people found guilty of conspiring to overthrow the government

    Map of Ethiopia
    Map of Ethiopia

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Prosecutors in Ethiopia are seeking the death penalty for 40 people found guilty  of conspiring to overthrow the government. Twenty-seven of the defendants were tried and convicted last week. Thirteen others, most of them living in exile, were earlier found guilty in absentia. This VOA correspondent was in the courtroom as the 27 in custody pleaded for reduced sentences.

    One by one, the 27 convicted conspirators were given a chance to explain to a three-judge panel why they should not be executed for planning a campaign of violence aimed at bringing down Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government.

    The group was convicted of five charges. Among them were trying to incite rebellion within the army, plotting to kill senior government officials and destroy strategic facilities.

    All were said to be members of the outlawed May 15th movement led by exiled political leader Berhanu Nega. Berhanu, now a university professor in the United States, was among the 13 convicted in absentia. He has denied the existence of a plot, but has repeatedly called Prime Minister Meles's government 'illegitimate' and said it should be removed by any means.

    Many of 27 convicted last week are current or former military officers. Speaking to the court, they pointed to their decades of decorated service. Some spoke of fighting with the forces that overthrew the previous Marxist regime. Several listed the medals they had won and the wounds they suffered fighting for Ethiopia in its war against Eritrea a decade ago, or serving in Somalia, or in the  counterinsurgency campaign against rebels in the independence-minded Ogaden region.

    Two defendants, both former army majors, admitted their guilt and threw themselves on the mercy of the court.

    Ethiopia's Justice Ministry spokesman Mekonnen Bezadeih says while the death penalty is being sought for all 40, the two who pleaded guilty would get special consideration.

    "We asked the court for the death penalty, but we also asked the court to minimize the penalty for two persons who told to the court their activities," Bezadeih said.

    The other defendants, including the lone woman among the 40, maintained their innocence throughout the trial, though some said they respect the court's decision.

    Several defendants, including the few represented by attorneys, questioned whether the death penalty is appropriate in a case where the charge is simply planning a coup, not carrying it out. Presiding judge Adem Ibrahim was silent on the matter, but Justice Ministry spokesman Mekonnen said the cumulative weight of all the charges calls for the maximum punishment.
     
    "According to our procedure law, if there are so many charges, each penalty will be added and they will be penalized the sum of the penalties, so when we see their convictions, by acting contradiction with the constitution, and also they conspired to make a crisis between army forces, the penalty would be the highest penalty point, which is the death penalty," Bezadeih said.

    Those facing the maximum penalty include Melaku Teferra, a senior member of Ethiopia's opposition UDJ, or Unity for Democracy and Justice Party. Melaku was among the scores of political leaders convicted of inciting post-election violence in 2005, then later pardoned.

    In outlining the charges Tuesday, Chief Prosecutor Berihu Toldeberhan singled out Melaku, saying he should have learned from his past mistakes.

    Melaku is one of two top UDJ officials in prison as next May's elections approach. The party's main leader, Birtukan Mideksa, was also among those jailed after the 2005 election and then pardoned. But she was sent back to prison last December and ordered to finish serving a life sentence after denying that she had asked for the pardon. 

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora