35 arrested in Ethiopia 'coup' swoop

The Ethiopian government arrested 35 people suspected of a coup attempt allegedly backed by an Ethiopian economist now teaching at a US university, a government spokesman said.

Government spokesman Ermias Legesse said the group, which calls itself on May 15 after the date of controversial 2005 elections in Ethiopia, was led from the US by former opposition leader Berhanu Nega, who is an associate professor of economics at Bucknell University.

“It is the party led by Berhanu Nega,” said Mr Ermias. “If he comes to Ethiopia, we’ll arrest him.”

He said the alleged plotters were arrested on Friday.

Interviewed in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania Mr Berhanu, 51, said he had no role in organising any coup attempt.

“I’m very suspicious that were was an attempt at all,” he said. “This is not a government that has any credibility whatsoever in terms of telling the truth.”

Mr Berhanu was elected mayor of Addis Ababa in 2005 but was arrested afterward along with more than 100 other opposition politicians and stood trial for treason. He and the others were freed in 2007 in a pardon deal. He left Ethiopia after the trial.

He said he hoped the administration of President Barack Obama would realise it is “unseemly” for the US to have any relationship with the Ethiopian regime.

The opposition won an unprecedented number of parliamentary seats in the 2005 vote, but not enough to topple Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The opposition claimed the voting was rigged, and European Union observers said it was marred by irregularities. The election was followed by violent protests. Ethiopia acknowledged that its security forces killed 193 civilians protesting alleged election fraud.

Since 2005, there has been only one opposition-led political protest in Ethiopia, held this month in Addis Ababa.

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