Zimbabwe won't extradite former Ethiopian dictator

Zimbabwe said Wednesday it would not extradite former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who was convicted of genocide earlier this week.

Zimbabwe said Wednesday it would not extradite former Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who was convicted of genocide earlier this week.

Mengistu has lived in Zimbabwe since his 1991 ouster from Ethiopia, where he was convicted in absentia on Tuesday over the killings of tens of thousands of people during his 17 years in power.

Paul Mangwana, Zimbabwe's acting information and publicity minister, told Reuters the conviction didn't change his government's position.

"Mengistu applied for asylum and we granted him… the position remains the same," he told Reuters.

Zimbabwe's controversial president, Robert Mugabe, considers Mengistu an ally and has shielded him from the media in the past.

Lives in Hararemansion

Mengistu lives in the wealthy Harare neighbourhood of Gunhill in a government villa surrounded by walls and guarded around the clock.

Known as the "butcher of Addis Ababa," Mengistu and dozens of his officials could face the death penalty if he returns to Ethiopia.

The 12-year-trial focused on the so-called "red terror campaign," carried out by his military regime, the Dergue. Amnesty International estimates 500,000 people were killed from 1977 to 1991.

In 1999, American officials confirmed they played a role in finding Mengistua haven. They argued it was necessary to get him out of the country in order to bring peace.

Mengistu, who isbelieved to be about 65,took part in a bloody coup against Ethiopia's Haile Selassie in September 1974, forming a military ruling committee with other officers. He took power three years later.