June 1, 2007 / 2:08 PM / 12 years ago

Ethiopia prosecution seeks death sentence for Mengistu

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Prosecutors in Ethiopia are seeking to raise a life imprisonment sentence for former Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam to the death penalty after a genocide conviction for crimes during his bloody 17-year rule.

The government’s special prosecutor Joseph Kiros told Reuters a court would hear an appeal on June 12 in the case of Mengistu and scores of his henchmen sentenced in January.

“The penalty they received was not commensurate to the crimes they committed,” he said.

“The court has accepted our appeal and the defendants are ordered to appear in court on June 12, 2007.”

While dozens of former Mengistu officials will appear personally, it is highly unlikely the nearly 70-year-old former leader will himself face justice in Ethiopia. Zimbabwe, where he has been exiled for 16 years, says it will not extradite him.

After a 12-year trial, Mengistu was sentenced in January for the killing of thousands of people during his rule, which began with ousting Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 and included war, famine and brutal purges such as the “Red Terror.”

Judges in January said he was spared the death penalty due to his age and state of health, but prosecutors were not satisfied.

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