ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- Five opposition members imprisoned since 2005 pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempting to overthrow Ethiopia's government, but asked the judge for a pardon.
Ethiopia pardoned and freed 38 other opposition members in the same case last week after international condemnation and strong pressure from the United States. The detainees were all arrested in connection with deadly election protests.
The five defendants Wednesday submitted a letter saying, "I plead guilty and I don't want to defend the case. I request the court give a judgment on me," High Court Judge Adil Ahmed said, adding that they immediately asked for a pardon.
The defendants are accused of inciting violence in an attempt to overthrow the government. Prosecutors have been pushing for the death penalty.
The opposition won an unprecedented number of parliamentary seats in the 2005 vote, but not enough to topple Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. The opposition claimed the voting was rigged, and European Union observers said it was marred by irregularities.
Last year, Ethiopia acknowledged its security forces killed 193 civilians protesting alleged election fraud but insisted they did not use excessive force. A senior judge appointed to investigate the violence disagreed, saying there was excessive force.
Initially, the opposition leaders, journalists and others were charged with treason, inciting violence and attempted genocide. Judges dropped the treason and attempted genocide charges in April and later that month freed 25 prisoners, among them eight journalists.
In Washington last week, a House subcommittee completed work on legislation that condemns Ethiopia's recent human rights record and opens the door for sanctions. The bill would have to be passed by both houses and signed by President Bush.
Associated Press/ WSVN-TV