Ethiopia has sentenced to prison 16 people accused of trying to create a separate state in Oromia region. The defendants belong to the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which the government has labelled as a terrorist organisation.

They all received prison terms from between four to 13 years, according to AP news agency.

The Ethiopian Federal High Court said in its ruling on Tuesday (28 March) that the OLF members had tried to carry out terrorist acts across the country and supported other group members in remote parts of Oromia.

Both Oromia and the Amhara regions were rocked by months of anti-government protests last year.

Among other things, protesters called for the release of political prisoners, and demonstrated against perceived disenfranchisement and lack of inclusion in the political process as the government is dominated by the Tigray minority.

During rallies, some Oromo people, Ethiopia's largest ethnic group, attacked foreign-owned factories, acts of violence that it was feared they could result in a reduction in investments in the country.

The response to the protests, labelled as the biggest anti-government unrest Ethiopia has witnessed in recent history, has resulted in the death of more than 500 people since November 2015, a figure the government later confirmed.

In October 2016, Ethiopia declared a six-month state of emergency following the unrest. Some of the measures imposed last year have now been lifted.

At least 20,659 citizens jailed since the emergency was declared have now been released. Another 5,000 suspects, however, are still in custody.

Critics to the state of emergency claimed the government was trying to quell protests by, among other things, banning certain media outlets, including the Oromia Media Network. The government has denied the allegations.

What is the OLF?

Created in 1973, the OLF stemmed from the discontent among people over a perceived marginalisation by the government and to fight the hegemony of the Amhara people.

The OLF – which is still active today – calls for the self-determination of the Oromo people.

The Ethiopian government labelled the OLF as a terrorist organisation that carries out violent acts in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

The group has always denied allegations of violence, claiming its mission is to terminate "a century of oppression" against the Oromos.