Ethiopian court convicts 26 in alleged coup plot

November 19, 2009

By SAMSON HAILEYESUS (AP) ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — An Ethiopian court on Thursday convicted 26 people who were accused of taking part in an alleged coup plot earlier this year and acquitted five others.

Judge Adem Ibrahim said most of the defendants in the case had said they were tortured by police into submitting false testimonies. But he said the witnesses had not convinced the court of the torture allegations.

In April, Ethiopia said the suspects were found with weapons, plans and information that linked them to a prominent opposition group started after the country’s disputed 2005 elections. Ethiopia has acknowledged that its security forces killed 193 civilians protesting alleged election fraud that year.

The defendants had faced charges of attempting to dismantle the constitutional order, assassinate officials, destroy infrastructure and agitate anarchy. The court said Thursday there was insufficient evidence brought against five of them.

In August, a Pennsylvania economics professor was found guilty in absentia, one of 13 previous convictions in the case. Berhanu Nega, who teaches at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa., has denied any involvement.

Berhanu was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005 but was arrested afterward along with more than 100 other opposition politicians and stood trial for treason. He and the others were freed in 2007 in a pardon deal.