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Ethiopia seeking death penalty for former dictator convicted of genocide

[JURIST] Ethiopian special prosecutor Joseph Kiros told Reuters Friday that the Ethiopian government will seek to raise the sentence of convicted former dictator Mengistu Haile Miriam [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] from a life in prison to the death penalty when an appeal commences June 12. Dozens of former officials in Mengistu's government will appear personally, although Mengistu remains in exile in Zimbabwe, where the regime of Robert Mugabe has repeatedly refused to extradite him [JURIST report]. Judges spared Mengistu from the death penalty during his sentencing [JURIST report] in January, citing the former dictator's advanced age and poor health.

The original trial, which took 12 years, convicted 72 of the 73 former officials charged with genocide, imprisonment, homicide, and illegal confiscation of property for crimes committed during the 1977-1978 "Red Terror" [US Department of State backgrounder], when thousands of Mengistu's political opponents were executed. Twelve defendants died during the trial, and 25, including Mengistu, were tried in absentia. Approximately 150,000 university students, intellectuals and politicians were killed during Mengistu's rule from 1974-1991. Reuters has more.

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