A court in Addis Ababa has handed down life sentences to 35 senior opposition figures after they were found guilty of charges ranging from armed rebellion to outrage against the constitution in connection with post-election violence in 2005, international media sources report. A further eight people have received lesser sentences of between 18 months and 18 years. The defendants, of whom five have been tried in absentia, include prominent leaders of the main opposition party Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), Addis Ababa mayor-elect Berhanu Nega and journalists. Earlier this month the prosecution had called for the death penalty.
The group was arrested in connection with clashes over the May 2005 local and general elections, which returned prime minister Meles Zenawi and his Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) to power amid claims of massive fraud. Nearly 200 people were killed in the violence, which the government claims was started by the opposition but dissidents say was triggered by police.