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Tuesday's programme - Mengistu, Grenada and Israel

Peter van Dyk | 17:57 UK time, Tuesday, 12 December 2006

Ros told you what we're doing, but phone lines (and security conditions) in Iraq mean we've had to knock that on the head, so it's just the guilty verdict against Ethiopia's ex-Marxist ruler, Mengistu Haile Mariam; the Grenada 17 (well, 13 of them) seeking freedom from a British court; and should Israel come clen over its nuclear status?

Plenty to be getting on with then - you can read emails and text messages here, and of course post your own comments as well.

Mengistu guilty

A few hours ago news came through that an Ethiopian court had found Marxist ex-ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam guilty of genocide - after a 12-year trial.

Mr Mariam himself lives in exile in Zimbabwe.

Amber Henshaw is the BBC's correspondent in Ethiopia. She said there was chaos in the courtroom after the verdict was announced.

She added that although people feel it all happened a long time ago, memories are fresh of some of the atrocities - such as the discovery of mass graves. But people are frustrated that Mengistu is out of the reach of the Ethipian authorities in exile in Zimbabwe.

Andergacho is full time campaigner for Coalition for Unity and Democracy - which opposes the current government. He said Mengistu had one of his brothers killed and imprisoned another.

Andergacho was a university student at the time but the irony is that Ethiopia is again ruled by a dictator.

But back then when he was in the underground opposition - when he was young and committed - they fought Mengistu's regime despite the killings. His brother was among a thousand killed on the same evening.
Is he satisfied by the verdict? No, because his brother died for the rule of law in his country - and only when that happens will his death be justified.

Professor Christopher Clapham joined us from Cambridge University. He said there was no good reason that the trial took 12 years, and that the time it took showed there was no accountability of the government to the people.

Birunji in Uganda agreed with Andergacho that justice had not been done. It sends a terrible message to other leaders around Africa who are dictators now.

Celcilia said the justice came too late - it was needed while he was in power to make any difference.

Eric in Uganda said Mengistu had to pay for everything he had done.

Professor Clapham said the worst of the regime was in the 1970s.

Omar said there are many genocides in Africa - Mengistu and others should have been tried in The Hague.

Professor Clapham pointed out that there were other members of the regime on trial as well, and they were in the courtroom. He added that Andergacho's point that if the trial had concluded in the early years of the present regime - when they had much support for clearing up after Mengistu - it would have been welcomed and accepted far more.

Arguing for freedom in Grenada

We started with Janice in Grenada - she said people were talking about it and mostly felt that they should be welcomed back into society.

She said the assassins were very young and were probably brainwashed into doing it.

Annie Bain's husband was killed during the coup. She said it was the most gruesome act ever committed in Grenada - and that it was enough their sentences were commuted from death to life in prison. They should not be forgiven any further.

She said her husband was a minister in the government and he went to find out why Maurice Bishop was gone so long. He never came back, and they never even got a body to bury.

Annie said she was there when the shooting started, and still has a bullet in her leg.

Janice said she was not so close to events as Annie, but she marched for the release of Mr Bishop and was almost suffocated in the crush at the age of 11.

But she maintains that the men should be forgiven, and that most Grenadians believed that.

Frank didn't agree with that. He said many Grenadians believe the men were lucky to avoid the death penalty.

Angus said it was a terrible crime and they should serve a bit more time, and he could quite understand those who lost loved ones who said they should serve their entire term.

He added that it was a very small community and they would be known in society and that was not right for the victims' families.

Anslom Clouden, a former senator of the parliament, thinks
Grenadians believe rehabilitation has taken place and 20 years is enough time. Time to have them released and move forward.

Carol wasn't have any of that. He said that releasing the men would send the wrong message to the rest of the Caribbean, that politics could cover for dreadful crimes.

And to finish, Graham declared that they were found guilty and they should serve life in prison.

Paul in Michigan by email:
"Just because you forgive someone does not mean they do not have to face their punishment. This is what is wrong with society today. You can not commit any worst act than murdering another human being and just because they were 20 when they committed the crime we should let them go now. This is a very dangerous way of handling acts such as the ones they committed."

A public secret

Rob in Boston said the comment by Ehud Olmert was ominous, that Israel felt the need to send a warning to Iran.

Mark in Israel agreed that it was ominous. But he said Iran had to be prevented from turning its rhetoric into reality.

Ahmed said that the comment was good for Iran, as it would legitimise its search for nuclear weapons.

Mark said it was ridiculous that Iran should seek weapons - there is no threat to Iran, but there is a threat to Israel. Ahmed said Iran needs nuclear weapons for self-preservation.

Ossi said that Israel's ambiguity served no purpose as everyone knows Israel has weapons.

Adel in Saudi Arabia agreed that Israel was just stating the obvious.

And Stanley in Tanzania finished the programme by saying that if America wants Iran to not have nuclear weapons then Israel and America should also not have them.


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