A court in Addis today issued death sentences for Berhanu Nega and four other civilians for the attempted assassination of high Ethiopian government officials.
Four of those sentenced to death were tried in absentia. Only Melaku Tefera was in court to receive the death sentence.
Another 33 convicted of the plot were given life sentences. Berhanu told the Horn of Africa service, “I’ve always known the evidence they claim is false and of their own making. Witnesses they bring are people who have been told what to say by being tortured in advance. This government is totally unstable and this brings the case for them to intimidate the opposition.”
Justice Ministry spokesman Mekonnen Bezabeih said the ruling was clearly based on the evidence that they conspired “to create public havoc and incite rebellion within Ethiopia's military. This is not a political case but a pure, pure legal issue,” he told VOA correspondent Pete Heinlein after the ruling.
Chief Judge Adem Ibrahim told the court the five who received death sentences were political leaders of an attempted plot against the government.
Berhanu, who led a group known as Ginbot 7 named for the date when in 2005 when he was elected mayor of Addis Ababa, has denied plotting against the government. He now teaches economics at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania.
Mekonnen said the prosecution has not decided whether to ask for extradition of the remaining four who are out of the country. Ethiopian has no extradition treaty with the United States, according to the U.S. embassy in Addis.
Eskinder Firew reported from Addis and Solomon Kifle reported from Washington, D.C.