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An Ethiopian court sentenced 35 opposition leaders, including four journalists, to life in prison yesterday, rebuffing a prosecution request that they be executed for trying to overthrow the government, inciting violence and treason.

A further two journalists and six opposition leaders were ordered to serve between 18 months to 18 years in prison. The defendants were convicted last month for their links to deadly 2005 protests against alleged poll-rigging. More than 190 people were killed when authorities crushed post-election protests contesting the ruling party's victory, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reports. Journalists were targeted for their coverage of the elections and their aftermath.

Editors Andualem Ayele of "Ethiop", Mesfin Tesfaye of "Abay", Zelalem Guebre of "Menilik" and Abey Gizaw of "Netsanet" were sentenced to life in prison. "Asqual" editor Wenakseged Zeleke was sentenced to three years in jail, and deputy editor Dawit Fassil of "Satanaw" to 18 months.

The court also imposed heavy fines on the Serkalem, Sisay and Fassil press groups and ordered that they be disbanded.

According to CPJ, a plea for clemency signed by all 43 defendants was submitted to the prime minister's office following the sentencing. Join the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (EHAHRDP) condemnation of jail terms by writing to the Ethiopian government. Contacts are listed here:

Visit these links:
- "IFEX Communiqué" story on convictions in June:
- CPJ:
- Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières):
- International Federation of Journalists:
(17 July 2007)

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