ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – A court has sentenced three former rebels to death for killing dozens of people while rebel factions jockeyed for power more than a decade ago, a government spokesman said Thursday.

The men were convicted for killings that occurred in 1992, a year after the ouster of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, said Zemedkun Teckle. A fourth man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing a woman.

Death sentences in Ethiopia usually are carried out by hanging. Iman Kelil Oumar, Beyan Ahmed Ousman and Asli Ahmed, however, must stay in jail until Ethiopia’s president agrees to their executions.

Iman was found guilty Tuesday of participating in the killings of 207 people. Beyan was convicted of involvement in the murder of 205 people while Asli was found guilty of killing 89 people, Zemedkun said.

The men were members of the now-banned Oromo Liberation Front. The group was part of a rebel coalition that ousted Mengistu in May 1991, but later fell out of favor with other rebel groups. The victims were killed because the Oromo rebels suspected them of being spies.

The Oromo is the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, accounting for some 40 percent of the country’s estimated 67 million people.

Ethiopia’s notoriously inefficient courts have convicted more than 1,000 people since 1994 for participating in abuses during and immediately after the rule of Mengistu.

At least 6,300 await trial. More than 3,000 of them, like Mengistu, live in exile.

AP-ES-10-21-04 2139EDT

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