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Former Ethiopia dictator sentenced to life imprisonment in genocide case

[JURIST] Former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Miriam [BBC profile] was sentenced to life imprisonment Thursday after he was convicted on genocide charges [JURIST report] in absentia at the conclusion of a 12-year trial. Mengistu and 72 other former officials were charged with genocide, imprisonment, homicide, and illegal confiscation of property for crimes committed during the "Red Terror" [US LOC backgrounder], where thousands of Mengistu's political opponents were executed. Of the 73 total defendants, 33 were in court for sentencing; 11 defendants were sentenced to life in prison while 47 received a sentence of up to 25 years in prison. Fourteen defendants died during the course of proceedings.

It is believed approximately 150,000 university students, intellectuals and politicians were killed throughout Mengistu's rule from 1974 to 1991. Mengistu has been in exile in Zimbabwe since rebels forced him from power in 1991. He is likely to avoid serving his sentence as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said he will not deport Mengistu if he refrains from participating in political activity. Chief prosecutor Yosef Kiros may appeal the sentence since he hoped Mengistu would receive the death penalty. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.

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