ETHIOPIA: Trial of opposition activists adjourned again
20 Feb 2007 14:16:59 GMT
ADDIS ABABA, 20 February (IRIN) - The Federal High Court in Ethiopia has once again adjourned the trial of 111 opposition activists and journalists, including more than 70 defendants who have been held in custody since November 2005 on charges of instigating unrest to overthrow the government.
Federal High Court Judge Adil Ahmed on Monday adjourned the trial until 5 March, saying a speech allegedly made by one of the defendants - the leader of the country's main opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), Hailu Shawl - in the US Congress before his arrest needed to be translated from English into Amharic, Ethiopia's official language.
The trial has been adjourned several times before.
Seventy-eight of the accused were in court on Monday. Twenty-five are being tried in absentia because they are in exile.
Some of the defendants - 54 CUD officials and 15 journalists - face charges of attempting to "overthrow the constitutional order through violence" and "outrages against the constitution". Other charges include high treason and attempted genocide, which are capital offences under Ethiopian law.
The accused were arrested in a crackdown in November 2005 against the independent media, opposition politicians and civil and human rights activists after the disputed elections in May that year, which returned the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to power. During demonstrations called by the opposition against alleged poll rigging in June and November 2005, 193 protesters were killed by security forces and thousands of people were arrested.
The detentions sparked international concern over the state of democracy in Ethiopia. Amnesty International described those on trial as "prisoners of conscience".