Supporters of an Ontario man sentenced to life behind bars in Ethiopia want the Harper government to suspend aid to the African country over what they consider a politically motivated sham.

The Ethiopian High Court ordered Bashir Makhtal to spend life in prison yesterday, disappointing backers fighting for his return to Canada.

“I’m really devastated about it,” said Said Maktal, a cousin in Hamilton who spells his name differently. “I don’t think that Bashir’s been given the due process.

“This is the time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to intervene in the case.”

Makhtal, 40, was convicted of terrorism-related charges last week in Addis Ababa.

The court found Makhtal guilty of membership in the political and military central committees of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front; working to co-ordinate attacks against the Ethiopian army, and working with the Eritrean government in recruiting and training insurgents.

Lorne Waldman, Makhtal’s Toronto lawyer, has denounced the legal proceedings as a “kangaroo court” that ignored important evidence. Some allegations suggest Makhtal was involved in military activity at a time when he wasn’t even in the region, Waldman says.

He wants the federal government to pressure Ethiopia by cutting off all development aid short of humanitarian assistance.

“We’re now looking to them to make a very forceful response to Ethiopia,” Waldman said.