ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – An Ethiopian [kangaroo] court sentenced eight people to death for a grenade attack that killed five people last year in the Horn of Africa nation’s restive Somali region, local media reported on Thursday.
The assault at a packed ceremony in 2007 was blamed on the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), a separatist movement in the remote eastern area. A stampede after police fired over the crowd killed another six people.
“The Somali state high court sentenced to death the eight people after evidence presented by the prosecution proved that the accused killed and wounded civilians,” the state-run Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) quoted the court as saying.
The eight have a right to appeal to higher courts under Ethiopian law. Death sentences must also be approved by the state president.
The ONLF says it is fighting for autonomy of the ethnic-Somali region. Both the government and the rebels accuse each other of human rights abuses.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament that the rebel group has been largely “neutralised” by a military offensive going on for the past year.
The ONLF denies this, saying it still has operations in the countryside. Addis Ababa says its neighbour Eritrea is training and supplying the ONLF, but Asmara denies that.