ETHIOPIA: COURT SENTENCES OROMO SEPARATIST TO DEATH
April 6, 2010: An Ethiopian court has handed down a death sentence to an alleged leader of an outlawed Oromo separatist group and given stiff prison terms to 15 others convicted of plotting to overthrow the government.
A three-judge panel found 16 defendants guilty of conspiracy to wage war on Ethiopia's government as part of a plan to establish a separate Oromo state.Â Oromos are Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, comprising about 40 percent of the country's population.
The verdicts were handed down last week, but the news was delayed because of the Easter holiday. The defendants were arrested in 2007 and 2008 and were accused of being members or sympathizers of the Oromo Liberation Front, or OLF, which the government considers to be a terrorist group.
Most were sentenced to jail terms of 10 to 13 years without parole.Â But alleged group leader Mesfin Abebe was sentenced to death.Â Another defendant, Tesfahun Chemeda, was given a life term.
Ethiopian Justice Ministry spokesman Mekonnen Bezabeih says the charges included killings and armed robberies aimed at terrorizing the population, and financing the OLF's separatist campaign. (Sources: VOA, 06/04/2010)