Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Friday, 19 December 2008

Ethiopian ex-PM freed from prison

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in Tanzania, 22 May 2008
Tamerat Layne was a key ally of current Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Tamerat Layne has been released after spending 12 years in prison for corruption and abuse of power.

He was dismissed from government in 1996 and convicted by the Ethiopian Supreme Court four years later.

He was sentenced to 18 years in prison but state media said he was freed early after showing good behaviour.

He was a key ally of current Prime Minister Meles Zenawi; their coalition ousted the military regime in 1991.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in the capital, Addis Ababa, says they were among three men at the top of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front coalition.

The third was Seye Abreha, who went on to become defence minister but was also jailed for corruption not long after Tamerat.

Last year, Seye was also given early release from prison.

Our reporter says that while people do not dispute the corruption allegations against the two men - they also feel that it was to do with a power struggle within the ruling coalition.

Mr Meles assumed the post of prime minister in 1995.

The military regime - known as the Derge - was headed by Mengistu Haile Mariam, whose 17-year rule was known as the Red Terror because of the thousands of people killed in that period.

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