Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Ethiopian pop star jail term cut

By Elizabeth Blunt
BBC News, Addis Ababa

Teddy Afro (Image:
Teddy Afro's music has been an anthem for opposition protests

Ethiopia's most famous pop singer, Teddy Afro, has had his sentence for manslaughter reduced on appeal.

He was jailed for causing the death of a young homeless man through dangerous driving and failing to stop at the scene of the accident.

The sentence was reduced from six years to two years, which means that - allowing for time already served - he could be free very shortly.

The singer has always denied committing the crime.

As news of the decision rippled out across Addis Ababa, groups of young people gathered in the streets, cheering and hugging each other at the news that their favourite singer would soon be free.

Victim 'was drunk'

Teddy Afro, charged under his real name of Tewodros Kassahun, had originally received a six-year jail sentence, after a car identified as belonging to him hit and killed a young homeless man in the centre of Addis Ababa and then failed to stop to offer assistance.

The performer has always said that he was not driving at the time.

The appeal judge, Mr Justice Dagne Melaku, in a careful and detailed decision, upheld the guilty verdict but reduced the sentence from six years to two - on the grounds that the victim had been seen lying drunk and unconscious in the road before the accident - and that the police had failed to move him to safety.

The singer has already spent nearly a year in jail and with an allowance for good behaviour he should now be free in less than a year.

His die-hard fans, however, still refuse to accept he could be guilty, continuing to maintain that he is the victim of a political vendetta because Teddy Afro's music was identified with the opposition cause at the time of the controversial 2005 elections.

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