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Ethiopian Court Sentences Ex-Dictator Mengistu to Life in Prison


An Ethiopian court has sentenced former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, in absentia, to life in prison for genocide during his 17-year Marxist rule.

Ethiopian prosecutors had demanded the death penalty for Mengistu, who lives comfortably in exile in Zimbabwe. The former dictator fled to Zimbabwe in 1991 following his ouster by rebels loyal to the current Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi.

The court in Addis Ababa says it decided on the lesser sentence of life in prison considering Mengistu's age of 69 and his state of health.

Mengistu was convicted last month of genocide and other crimes in which thousands of Ethiopians were killed.

Relatives of those who died are criticizing the life sentence as too lenient, and prosecutors say they may appeal for the death penalty.

Zimbabwe's government has said it will not extradite Mengistu.

Mengistu helped to overthrow Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, and became the country's absolute ruler in 1977, following the assassination of then-head of state, General Teferi Bante.

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