Ethiopia to resume trial of opposition leaders
AFP| Oct 5, 2006 “” The trial of Ethiopian opposition leaders and journalists accused of plotting to overthrow the government after disputed elections last year is to resume this week, a court official said Wednesday.
After a two-month adjournment, the official said the high-profile trial would begin again on Thursday as the presiding judge is set to rule on a defense objections to additional prosecution evidence.
“The trial of the opposition leaders will start tomorrow after two months of interruption during the summer,” deputy prosecutor Mikael Tekru said.
“The judge will be ruling on whether the objection on additional evidence introduced by three of the defendants is admissible or not,” he said.
The controversial trial, which government critics allege is purely political, began in May but was suspended on August 4 amid calls from Ethiopia’s main donors for due process and the rule of law to be upheld.
Thus far prosecutors have presented evidence, including videotapes and documents that they claim prove the defendants are guilty of charges ranging from high treason and genocide to conspiracy to overthrow the government.
In addition, they plan to call some 300 witnesses to testify against the 111 defendants “” 101 individuals, four political parties and six newspapers “” who are physically present in Ethiopia and 25 others being tried in absentia.
The charges stem from deadly violence that rocked Addis Ababa and outlying cities during protests against May 2005 elections, the results of which are disputed by the main opposition group, Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD).
The CUD complained of massive vote fraud and called for nationwide protests that turned violent and claimed the lives of at least 84 people, many of whom were shot dead by police.
Nearly the entire CUD leadership is being tried in the case, which stems from the government’s allegations that the group was trying to foment a coup by staging the protests.
Almost all of those charged have refused to enter pleas but are adament in protesting their innocence.
The case has aroused deep concern from donors and fierce criticism from rights groups that maintain the government is trying to stifle dissent.