Former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu sentenced to death

Ethiopia's supreme court sentenced the former Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam to death yesterday. Mengistu, who lives in Zimbabwe, had previously been sentenced to life in prison. Between 1974 and 1991, Mengistu's regime killed tens of thousands of people. He was found guilty in absentia of genocide and sentenced to life after a 12-year trial that ended in 2006.

Desta Gebru, the supreme court judge, said he had increased the sentence to death because Mengistu had tortured and executed thousands of people for political reasons, which under Ethiopian law amounts to genocide. The trial is not internationally recognised.

The former Ethiopian leader fled to Zimbabwe in 1991 with 50 family members, large amounts of cash and his Rolls-Royce. Seven years ago he was granted permanent residency. There is no extradition treaty between the two countries.

The Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has indicated that it would withdraw the protection afforded by President Robert Mugabe's government, which considers Mengistu a friend of the liberation struggle. But yesterday the MDC stopped short of pledging to extradite Mengistu should its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, win next month's Zimbabwean presidential run-off.