An Ethiopian court has dropped charges of treason and genocide against 18 people, including five journalists for the Voice of America.

Ethiopia's Federal High Court ordered the charges dropped Wednesday at a hearing in the capital, Addis Ababa.

VOA Director David Jackson welcomed the move. He said the VOA has always maintained the charges were without merit and said VOA employees will continue to bring accurate and objective news to Ethiopia.

The five VOA journalists,(Negussie Mengesha, Addisu Abebe, Tizita Belachew, Adanech Fessehaye and Solomon Kifle, work in Washington and were never in Ethiopian custody.

The Ethiopian government continues to prosecute 111 opposition members and others charged following two outbreaks of deadly violence last year.

More than 80 people died when security forces clashed with demonstrators protesting election results that the opposition says were rigged.

Several others whose charges were dropped today were also being tried in absentia.

The next hearing against the opposition members is scheduled for May 2.