Ethiopia Commutes Death Sentences of Mengistu Officers

Posted June 1st, 2011 at 9:00 am (UTC-5)
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Ethiopia has commuted death sentences given to 23 former officials for crimes committed during the rule of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.

Ethiopian President Girma Woldegiorgis announced Wednesday that he had reduced the officials' sentences to life in prison. The action follows an appeal for leniency by a group of religious leaders.

The officials were convicted of genocide in 2008, after a court found the Mengistu government had killed and tortured thousands of people during its 17-year rule.

Those whose death sentences have been commuted include Legesse Asfaw, known as “the butcher of Tigre,” former Prime Minister Fikresellassie Wogderes and former Vice President Fisseha Desta.

The death sentence imposed against Mr. Mengistu in 2007 remains in effect. The former leader was overthrown in 1991 and fled to Zimbabwe where he is still living in exile.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has refused to extradite him.