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Page last updated at 17:38 GMT, Wednesday, 6 May 2009 18:38 UK

Ethiopia asked to name 'plotters'

Berhanu Nega celebrating in Addis Aababa after his release from prison, July 2007
The detainees are said to be allied to self-exiled politician Berhanu Nega

The Ethiopian government has been asked by rights group Amnesty International to disclose the identity of 35 people arrested more than 10 days ago.

They were accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

The group says more people have been detained since, including an 80-year-old man in need of medical attention.

The government says those arrested were all members of the opposition group Ginbot 7, founded by the exiled mayor of Addis Abba, Berhanu Nega.

The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in the capital, Addis Ababa, says he was one of the most charismatic opposition figures at the time of the last elections in Ethiopia in 2005.

He was arrested after the polls along with other prominent opposition figures and tried for treason, sentenced to life imprisonment, then pardoned and released.

Military affair?

Our correspondent says that despite the fact that those arrested were briefly produced in court soon after their arrest - only two names have been officially made public.

One is of serving army general Tefera Mamo, the other of Melaku Tefera, an opposition activist.

But our reporter says other names are seeping out.

Ginbot 7 says those arrested include a cousin of their leader and the elderly father of another leading figure in the party.

Apart from those two, the indications are that this is a predominantly military affair, our reporter says.

In General Teferra's hometown of Lalibella, in the northern Amhara region, residents say at least one other soldier from the town and a close aide were arrested as well.

According to local newspaper The Reporter, most of the military men arrested had previously been fighters with the Amhara armed group which helped bring the present government to power.

Our correspondent says it is possible, if most of those arrested turn out to be Amharas, that the alleged plot and the subsequent arrests have an ethnic dimension.

They used to be Ethiopia's dominant group, but have now lost influence to Tigreans from the north.

The alleged plotters' next court appearance is expected to be early next week.



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