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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Court Hears How Mengistu Regime Killed Haile Selassie

ADDIS ABABA -- Ethiopia's frail Emperor Haile Selassie was strangled in his bed by the Marxist army officers who overthrew him and now stand trial 19 years later for the systematic murder of thousands, a court heard Wednesday.

Lawyers said this was the first official account of how the feudal emperor died after the revolution that deposed him.

Judges reading charges of genocide and murder on the second day of trials against 67 former members of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam's military junta, or "dergue," said they had met on Aug. 23, 1975:

"... And with complete premeditation resolved that His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie should be strangled because he was head of the feudal system.

"He was so strangled on August 26, 1975 in his bed most cruelly."

Popular legend has for years told how the frail, 82-year-old emperor was suffocated with a pillow by an assassin sent by the dergue in Addis Ababa's Grand Palace after being detained there for a year.

But the charges suggested the execution order was contained in an official dergue document.

"It establishes everything we wanted. We suspected there was evidence for this all along but we needed to hear it in court," said Teshome Gabre-Mariam Bokan, lawyer for the royal family and an attorney-general in the imperial government who was detained for eight years.