ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA -- Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie was strangled in his bed by the Marxist army officers who overthrew him 19 years ago and who are now standing trial for the systematic murder of thousands, according to documents revealed in court yesterday.

Judges reading charges of genocide and murder on the second day of the trials of 67 former members of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam's military junta said the officers had met Aug. 23, 1975, and "resolved that His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie should be strangled because he was head of the feudal system. He was so strangled on Aug. 26, 1975, in his bed most cruelly."

Popular legend had held for years that the frail, 82-year-old emperor was suffocated with a pillow in his Addis Ababa palace by an assassin employed by the revolutionary government.

The murder of Haile Selassie is one of more than 2,000 killings and disappearances alleged to have been ordered by the junta members, who could face the death penalty if found guilty of either genocide or homicide.

Mengistu fled to Zimbabwe three years ago after his regime was toppled in a civil war, and he and 20 others are being tried in absentia.