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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ethiopia Opposition Genocide Charges

Herald Sun -- ETHIOPIA has charged 131 opposition members with treason, inciting violence and planning to commit genocide during deadly clashes that followed a disputed parliamentary election.

Senior political figures from the opposition CUD coalition and 13 journalists were among those charged at an Addis Ababa court, where only 43 were present when the charges were presented. The rest were out of the country or otherwise free.

Under a section entitled "genocide", the charge sheet specifically accused the CUD of trying to isolate the Tigrayan people of Ethiopia, who are largely supporters of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's victorious Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

"The accused organised under the CUD umbrella and conspired with the intent to cause physical and mental harm to the people of Tigraya region and the attempt to isolate members of the EPRDF from society," the charges presented in court read.

The genocide charge carries a penalty of death or life in prison upon conviction.

The court denied those under arrest bail and ordered them to make a plea by next Wednesday.

The opposition have rejected the charges and said they are politically motivated.

The Ethiopian government arrested thousands of opposition members and others after two spasms of violence struck the capital Addis Ababa, in July and November, over the results of the May 15 election.

At least 82 people were killed in clashes with police and soldiers, and Mr Zenawi accused the CUD of fomenting the violence. The CUD and other opposition parties, who gained parliamentary seats in the vote, had accused the government of vote fraud and intimidation.

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