An Ethiopian judge has quashed controversial charges of attempted
genocide and treason against 111 people arrested after election
protests, according to a report on the BBC's website.

Twenty-five accused, mostly journalists and publishers, have also been acquitted of all charges.

However several opposition leaders remain in custody, accused of trying to violently overthrow the government.

Amnesty International says the charges of genocide were "absurd" and that the accused are "prisoners of conscience".

The accused have always said the trial was political and all but two have refused to co-operate.

Almost 200 people died in two waves of protests over alleged vote-rigging – denied by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The genocide charges related to accusations that members of Mr Meles' Tigray community were targeted during the protests.

The opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy blames the deaths on the security forces.

The violence and the charges of election fraud have tarnished Mr Meles' image as a favourite of western donors and one of a new wave of reforming African leaders.

Prison birth

"The prosecution has not proved the charges levelled against the 25 journalists," presiding Judge Adil Ahmed told the court before ordering prison authorities to free them immediately.

They have been in custody for 15 months and the AP news agency reports that one of those to be freed is a female journalist who gave birth in prison.

Click here to read the full report, posted on