EDITOR’S NOTE: It is the same kangaroo court that stole Ethiopian people’s vote in 2005 and allowed Meles Zenawi’s death squads to unleash terror on civilians. The Derg did not commit half the crime Woyannes have perpetrated against the people of Ethiopia. The Woyanne judged are themselves murderous criminals.
(The Associated Press) — ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia: Ethiopia’s Supreme Kangaroo Court sentenced an exiled former president dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam and 18 officials to death Monday, a prosecutor said.
Yoseph Kiros said the judgment delivered justice for the thousands of people murdered during Mengistu’s 17-year rule.
“I believe it is the right verdict because these people committed serious crimes against humanity,” Kiros said.
Mengistu, a Marxist leader who was driven from power in 1991 by the current regime, is living in comfortable exile in Zimbabwe and is not expected to be extradited while Robert Mugabe remains Zimbabwean president.
A runoff in Zimbabwe’s presidential race is scheduled for June 27. Mugabe’s opponents say he is using violence and intimidation in an attempt to win the runoff and retain power. Nevertheless, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has said he is confident of victory.
The 18 other officials sentenced to death Monday are all in Ethiopian custody.
Some experts say 150,000 university students, intellectuals and politicians were killed in a nationwide purge by Mengistu’s regime, though no one knows for sure how many suspected opponents were killed during the Soviet-style purges.
Human Rights Watch has described the 1977-78 campaign known as the Red Terror as “one of the most systematic uses of mass murder by a state ever witnessed in Africa.”
Mengistu had previously been sentenced to life imprisonment in January 2007 for genocide, but the prosecution appealed the sentence in July as unduly lenient.
Under Ethiopian law, the current president must approve the death sentences before an execution date is set.
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ADDIS ABABA (AFP) – Ethiopia’s Supreme Court sentenced former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam to death in his absence Monday, along with 17 senior officials of his regime, overturning a previous life term on appeal.
The court followed the request of the prosecution to toughen the sentence imposed in January 2007 on Mengistu, who has lived in comfortable exile in Zimbabwe since he was toppled in 1991, after he was found guilty of genocide at the end of a decade-long trial.
Mengistu, an army lieutenant colonel, was a member of the Marxist junta known as the Derg which ruled Ethiopia from 1974 after the ousting of Emperor Haile Selassie, assuming control of it in a bloody coup in 1977.
The genocide charges arose from a crackdown against opponents in 1977-78 known as the Red Terror in which tens of thousands were killed or disappeared.
The court that passed life sentences in 2007 accepted pleas for leniency from the defence, but Supreme Court judge Desta Gebru rejected them Monday.
“The court has decided to revoke the leniency appeal from the defendants,” he said in his ruling. “It has sentenced them to death.
“They have tortured and executed thousands of innocent people in public, which applies as genocide according to Ethiopian law.”
“Despite claiming that the killings resulted from the chaos that ensued after the (1974) coup, the defendants ordered massacres and abuses several years after the death of the emperor,” the judge added.
“All defendants are guilty of genocide, murder and illegal confiscation and detainment of innocent people. As a result, they will be handed out the most severe punishment in Ethiopian law.”
Desta said the court would await the confirmation of the sentences by President Girma Woldegiorgis — who has the power to amend them again — before fixing an execution date.
Those sentenced to death along with Mengistu included Legesse Afsaw, known as “the butcher of Tigre”, former vice-president Fisseha Desta and former prime minister Fikresellassie Wogderes.
On the reading of the Supreme Court’s verdict, many relatives of the accused in court burst into tears. None would comment to AFP.
Although the death sentence is sometimes pronounced in Ethiopia, only two people have been executed in the past 10 years and none since August 2007.
Following the end of Mengistu’s trial last year, Robert Mugabe’s government in Zimbabwe ruled out his extradition, saying, “Comrade Mengistu still remains a special guest”.
The Federal High Court had convicted Mengistu and 11 of his top aides in December 2006 on 211 counts of genocide, homicide, illegal imprisonment and illegal property seizure.
A further 60 defendants were also found guilty of genocide, but only by a majority 2-1 ruling by the judges, who acquitted some but not all on several of the lesser charges.
Only one defendant was acquitted on all charges.
Mengistu and his former top aides were also accused of the murders of former Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, whom they overthrew in 1974, and Orthodox Patriarch Abuna Tefelows.
Of the 73 accused, 14 had died and only 33 were present in court. Mengistu was among 25 defendants tried in absentia.
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(VOA) — Ethiopia’s highest court threw out a January, 2007 court ruling giving Mengistu and 17 of his senior associates life sentences for their part in the deaths of thousands of people between 1974 and 1991.
In a three-hour reading of the verdict, Justice Desta Gebru said the court has decided to revoke the leniency appeal from the defendants. It sentences them to death.
Justice Gebru agreed with a prosecution appeal that the life sentence was not commensurate with the crimes. After the original trial, which lasted 12-years, the defendants were convicted in 2006 of genocide for torturing and executing political enemies.
Many of the deaths occurred in 1977 and 1978, when Mengistu’s Marxist government, called the Derg, or “the committee,” carried out a purge known as the Red Terror.
Mengistu was an army lieutenant colonel when he led a military coup that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie. He has been living in exile in Zimbabwe since he was ousted by Ethiopia’s current government in 1991.
But several senior Derg officials were in the courtroom when the verdict was read.
Prosecutor Yoseph Kirkos expressed satisfaction at the high court’s decision. He said the difference between a life sentence and death in absentia may be meaningless now, but it could make a big difference if Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is ousted in next month’s election.
“For now you can say is no different,” said Yoseph Kirkos. “But for tomorrow maybe the country which protects him, which gives him the right to live there, maybe knows the gravity of the crime, and his involvement in the crime. Maybe one day they can return him. When they look he is a criminal and he is a dangerous guy.”
Former Ethiopian president and historian Negaso Gidada says persons convicted of genocide cannot be pardoned or granted amnesty. He says under Ethiopia’s constitution, only the current president, Girma Woldegiorgis, could commute the sentences.
“In case of person convicted of any crimes stated in sub-article one in these articles and sentenced with the death penalty, the head of state may, without prejudice, commute the punishment to life imprisonment,” said Negaso Gidada.
Negaso and prosecutor Kiros said while the issue of a commuted sentence may be moot for Mengistu, 17 other senior Derg officials are facing death. It was not immediately clear when or how the sentences might be carried out.
Coincidentally, the Supreme Court’s decision came two days before Ethiopia’s national day, when it celebrates the downfall of the Mengistu regime.