Ethiopian extradited from US begins life term in his native land

October 21st, 2006 Print Print Email Email

October 21: Addis Ababa - A former Ethiopian official extradited from the United States on Friday has started a life sentence with hard labour for his role in the Red Terror purges of the 1970s.Kelbesa Negeo was a local administrator in the capital Addis Ababa under the Marxist former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.

In 2002, he was sentenced to life imprsionemnet with hard labour after being convicted in absentia of genocide during the 1977-78 campaign that killed tens of thousands of Mengistu’s opponents.Suspects were rounded up, gunned down and their bodies then thrown into the streets as a warning to others.After Mengistu lost power, Kelbesa sought political asylum in the United States and found work at a hotel – but he was recognised there by an Ethiopian waitress who was once one of his victims.”Three Ethiopian women who were torture victims of Kelbesa and who lived in the US identified him and opened a court case (there) accusing him of torture and human rights violations,” a statement by Ethiopia’s Office of Special Prosecution said.

It said Ethiopia’s government had sent documentary evidence to the US authorities supporting the women’s case and had requested the 66-year-old Kelbesa’s extradition.Saturday’s statement also quoted testimony from the women recounting their torture at his hands.”We were crucified naked and dirty rags soiled with blood put into our mouths. Our feet and backs were beaten until blood oozed from our bodies and our skin peeled off,” it said.”We fled to the US immediately after we were released out of fear for our lives.”A US court ordered Kelbesa to pay $50 000 (about R375 000) compensation to each of the three victims, the statement said.Mengistu – who fled to Zimbabwe in 1991 after he was ousted by guerrillas led by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi – has also been tried in absentia in Addis Ababa.A final verdict against him and some of his top followers is expected later this year, ending a 13-year trial examining one of the darkest periods in the country’s turbulent history.

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