- Ethiopia’s court has slapped five people with death sentence and 33 to life imprisonment for allegedly plotting to assassinate the top government officials earlier this year.
The convicted, were part of the group of men arrested by the authorities in April after weapons including land mines, were discovered at the men's homes.
Some members of the group had in November, before Judge Adem Ibrahim claimed torture, but the allegations were later dismissed by the judge saying there was not enough evidence to prove they were tortured.
The ruling said the five men have committed grave offences and four of them have not learnt from their previous sentences, giving the convicts a maximum sentence.
Reports said the death sentences were reserved for what the court called the political leaders of the plot while those sentenced to life imprisonment were active or former military officers.
One of the sentenced included Berhanu Nega, a US-based dissident, accused of spearheading opposition plots. He was arrested after being elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005 and jailed for treason.
He was pardoned in 2007 and left for the United States, where he began teaching economics at a university.
Lawyers for the defense said they would appeal the rulings.
Human rights activists have condemned the detention and sentencing of the men, saying the country has deliberately tighten its laws as it approaches the 2010 elections to intimidate opposition views.
Ethiopia is well known for quashing opposition voices, with the secret security forces having reportedly killed close to 200 protesters after the parliamentary elections in 2005 when the opposition disputed the victory of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's government.
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