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Ethiopia prosecutor seeking death penalty for former dictator on appeal

[JURIST] The prosecutor in the genocide case against former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Miriam [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] announced Thursday that he is appealing last month’s sentence of life imprisonment [JURIST report], and will again push for the death penalty. Of the three sentencing judges, one opted for the death penalty, while the other two felt life sentences were more appropriate given the health and ages of the various defendants involved in Mengistu's case. Including Mengistu, 73 former officials were charged with genocide, imprisonment, homicide, and illegal confiscation of property for crimes committed during the 1977-78 "Red Terror" [US Department of State backgrounder], when thousands of Mengistu's political opponents were executed. All but one of the defendants were convicted [JURIST report], although 14 died during the 12-year case, and 25, including Mengistu, were tried in absentia.

It is believed approximately 150,000 university students, intellectuals and politicians were killed during 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 [BBC profile] has continually said he will not deport Mengistu [JURIST report] if he refrains from participating in political activity. BBC News has more.

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