June 09, 2010

Ethiopia rebels get lengthy jail terms

Ethiopia rebels get lengthy jail terms

Addis Ababa - An Ethiopian court has slapped lengthy prison terms on 24 rebel fighters for alleged terrorist activities and treason, the justice ministry said on Wednesday.

A high court on Tuesday sentenced seven commanders of the secessionist Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to life in prison, one officer to 25 years, 15 to 11 years, and another fighter to a shorter sentence, a statement said.

"The accused were members of the OLF - an illegal organisation involved in treason and in terrorist activities meant to break up the unity of the country," the ministry said.

The suspects were accused of killing 16 people in two attacks in eastern Ethiopia two years ago.

The OLF was part of Ethiopia's transition government from 1991 to 1995, after the fall of the Marxist regime of Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam.

After numerous disputes with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's party, it quit the coalition and demanded the creation of an independent state for the Oromiya region.

Since then, Ethiopian police have routinely accused the group of carrying out "terrorist activities" and fomenting insecurity.

Opposition leaders of Oromo descent accuse the government of arbitrarily detaining hundreds from the region on suspicion of supporting the group.

Oromos are the largest ethnic group in the Horn of Africa nation, comprising more than 30% of the population of 80 million.


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