[JURIST] The trial of 129 lawmakers, journalists and human rights activists on treason charges opened Friday in Ethiopia. The charges relate to mass demonstrations [JURIST report] in the wake of Ethiopia’s May 2005 elections; the 129 defendants were arrested after street protests in July and November [JURIST report]. The opposition Coalition of Unity and Democracy (CUD) [political party website] claims that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi “stole” the election by rigging the vote and intimidating witnesses. All but three of the defendants refused to enter a plea, and 38 defendants were charged in absentia.
Under Ethiopian law, the sentence for treason is death. In January, Federal Court Judge Adil Ahmed ordered the case to proceed when a group of the 129 defendants challenged the court’s jurisdiction [JURIST report]. The opposition members have also been barred from meeting with their defense lawyers [JURIST report] and appeared without them in court before the trial began. The Washington Times has more.