- The over 10-year-long court case against the former President of Ethiopia is finally set for judgement next week, government officials announced yesterday. Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam has been tried in absentia alongside with 73 other officials of his regime for committing genocide during their tenure in office. Six of the officials died, 40 are currently in prison and the rest fled the country.
The former Marxist ruled Ethiopia for 17 years, during which his government was accused of killing thousands of people.
Ex-President Mengistu's regime was also accused of killing innocent people in 1977 and 78 under a campaign called "Red Terror'. During this brutal campaign, the government arrested its suspected opponents, executed them and threw their bodies into the streets.
Mr Mengitsu - who has been called "the Stalin of Africa - was accused of killing his predecessor, Emperor Halie Selassie by strangling. He was said to have buried the lifeless body of Emperor Selassie in a latrine in his palace.
According to charges by the prosecutors, the former officials also killed more than 1,000 people, which included the execution of 60 ministers, top officials and members of the royal family by firing squad.
After the overthrow of his government in 1991, the former Ethiopian leader has been living in exile in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has refused a request by Ethiopia to extradite Colonel Mengistu to face prosecution. Reports say that the government of Zimbabwe issued a permanent resident status to ex-President Mengistu in early 2001, but Ethiopia has been requesting his extradition of Mengistu for crimes against humanity ever since.
When Ethiopia's President, Mr Mengistu played an important role in Zimbabwe's struggle for independence through providing military training to Zimbabweans in the 1970s. Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe therefore is seen as unlikely to extradite his special guest.
Now, however, the Ethiopian court case against the country's former Marxist Dictator is heading towards an end. According to judicial sources in Addis Ababa, the verdict would be delivered on 12 December 2006 instead of 23 January 2007, as earlier foreseen.
Ethiopia reportedly experienced hell as soon as the former soldier forced Emperor Halie Selassie from power in 1974. This followed war, brutality and famine in Ethiopia, where the revolutionary government forced peasants into collectivisation, causing a dramatic drop in productivity and an extreme famine.
It was reported that the Mengistu government asked families to pay for the bullets that killed their members when they went to the health facilities to collect bodies of political opponents.
News from some quarters stated that the Ethiopian government is in a haste to pass judgment on the accused persons, who might face death penalty when they are found guilty of the charges brought against them.
Bereaved families have also been waiting decades to see justice take its course.
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