[JURIST] The last two remaining defendants in Ethiopia's criminal treason prosecution of individuals allegedly involved in mass anti-government demonstrations [JURIST report] in 2005 have denied association with the opposition party Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) [party website] and are seeking to be acquitted, defense lawyers said Monday. Daniel Bekele of ActionAid Ethiopia [organization website] and Netsanet Demissie, the Executive Director of the Organization for Social Justice in Ethiopia, have refused to plead guilty in exchange for pardons [JURIST report]. CUD leader Hailu Shawel, who was among the 38 opposition members and journalists pardoned [JURIST report] on July 20, has also testified that the two anti-poverty activists are not CUD members.
The opposition members, most of whom belong to to the CUD, offered no defense throughout their trial and have maintained that the charges against them were politically motivated. Last October, an Ethiopian inquiry team charged with investigating the demonstrations said that approximately 193 civilians were killed by Ethiopian security forces [JURIST report] during the violence, which erupted following Ethiopia's contested 2005 elections [JURIST news archive]. Reuters has more.