Oromo politicians praise treatment and procedure but a suspect criticizes ‘defamatory’ media coverage

On 4 September, federal prosecutors said they want to proceed to trial after presenting 10 out of 15 witnesses, two of whom had their identities concealed, in the case of Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) politicians Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba.

The trial could begin at the Federal High Court within a week.

In pre-trial hearings on 1 September two more witnesses appeared. The next day, during the final witness testimony, a defendant, Hameza Adane, also an OFC member, said the suspects are being defamed in the media.

“Our families had to change their residence due to discrimination, the propaganda outside against us is heavy. Even though we did no such thing, the state has brought a witness who told myself and Bekele gave order which resulted the death of 160 people.  We are being defamed with a crime we didn’t commit and I’ve asked the court before to give order for the discontinuance of such defamations,” he said.

Defense attorney Tuli Bayessa told Ethiopia Insight that they are considering suing the media outlets. The judge said the First Instance Court could only investigate specific complaints and asked Hameza to name the outlets and detail the allegedly defamatory statements. In response, the defendant named Feteh magazine.

On 4 September, testimonies and cross examinations of two more witnesses took place. Prosecutors then said they have presented enough testimonies and the remaining five witnesses will appear at the Federal High Court trial. They have until 18 September to file charges with the court.

During pre-trial hearings, the Attorney General’s Office prosecutors presented the general nature of evidence acquired by police investigators in order to justify the arrest of the suspect. During the subsequent preliminary inquiry, which is only routine in cases involving serious alleged crimes, witnesses were heard, and those testimonies are transferred to the Federal High Court for the trial.

On the last session of the pretrial inquiry, the court said the prosecution asked for 15 days to file charges after receiving the copy of the testimonies. However, as per article 109 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the 15-day countdown begins from the day of the conclusion of the witness hearings.

Defense attorneys argued that the 15 days granted to file charges is not necessary since the police investigation was concluded a month ago. The defense also asked the court to release the suspects on bail until the trial but that was rejected. Suspects told the court the testimonies presented were false and that the dispute needs a political, not legal, resolution.

Jawar and Bekele again asked the court to allow the suspects to be detained together, as there is no justification for solitary detention. The court ordered the suspects to be allowed to see each other and get enough outdoors time, yet Jawar pointed out that a previous order from the court on the matter had not been implemented.

Upon the judge’s request, the Deputy Director of the Federal Prison Administration Etenesh Woldegabriel said she did not know why this had not occurred. The judge told the deputy director that the 4 September order should be carried out without any preconditions, but, by 13 September, this had not occurred, despite a defense complaint three days before.

Jawar and Bekele made a closing statement thanking the judge, prosecutors, and police officers for trying to be fair and treating them well. Jawar asked the officers to extend such treatment to all individuals under their custody. Bekele said “This is isn’t the first time I stood court. We all know how it used to be and what happened in this very court room two years ago. Now I have much more respect for this court”.

On 7 September, Deputy Attorney General Fekadu Tsega said the suspected killers of Hachalu Hundessa, a 29 June incident that triggered the deadly chaos Jawar and Bekele are suspected of stoking, will also be charged next week and that related investigations are also nearing conclusion.

Defense attorney Tuli Bayessa told Ethiopia Insight the pre-trial process had been smooth and that the replacement judge was an improvement on the first one, who he claims unlawfully denied Jawar’s request to see his doctor.

The prosecution was strict about keeping the testimonies and identities of the witnesses concealed throughout the preliminary inquiry. No journalists were allowed inside the court room, instead they follow proceedings, apart from the witness testimonies, on a plasma screen in an adjacent room. According to the defense, the testimonies were kept hidden as they may have revealed the witnesses’ identity, but normally this occurs in a fully closed session. Prosecutors claimed some state witnesses had experienced intimidation.

Only four family members of the suspects were allowed to attend the witness hearings. On 1 September, Ethiopia Insight’s correspondent asked other journalists if it was permissible to interview the family members. The correspondent was then questioned by a police officer and told that such an interview would be construed as an attempt to reveal the contents of the concealed testimonies.

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Main photo: Jawar Mohammed; Wikipedia

Editor: William Davison.

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About the author

Leul Estifanos

Leul is a freelance court reporter and a law graduate of Addis Ababa University. He previously worked as a case reviewer at the Public Procurement and Property Disposal Service.

9 Comments

  • Oh boy, oh boy., is this Trump hallucinations and his campaign’s ghost or something.? I know that historically many Habeshas have been black right-wingers and lackeys for the with skin both inside.and in diaspora, but I thought the trend has been changing thanks to the changing world , modern education and tconsciousness of their own blackness and race issues. I could be wrong again.

  • Do you really think so sir? Trump is a moron and a racist, telling lies every day. Only favoring the rich white Americans and the industries. It’s a businessman, not a leader that also cares for the poor. Denying climate change, caused by human over exploitation of natural resources. Denying the importance of a healthy environment which is a boundary condition for human life on this planet. All that is not fitting in his narrow minded views are easily called fake by him. I sincerely hope Abiy is not copying Trump. Then we have to pray even harder for the future of Ethiopia.

  • The so-called justice system in Ethiopia is notorious and petty binstitutions since the days of Menilik era, where the ignoramus, the debteras, the corrupt and the semi-literate are infested at every level. It never has shaken off this sinister and brutality image through the subsequent regimes and generations .. Today”s practioners are the disciples of yesteryears and disciples of today will be the mal practioners of tomorrow and so forth, all of them mumbling and scribbling an intelligible geez alphabet or its derivatives that 70% of the population have little idea. if not havecontemp for it. That is why the familiar saying of the lijju damay abatu dagnaw or the the killer son.and his judge father used to reasonate with many wronged and deprived citizens and public at large. Cacealing identities or killing of witness , gubo or bribes, katero or endless court proceeding dates, religious or ethnicity bias, poor detective work, framing or concocting evidences have been the hall of the system for generations. Now, why canceal their identie? Something isn’t right here. TPLFF regime also often used to canceal witnesses of it’s kangaroo courts. In a rare cases where this practice is necessary there should be credible and public explanation. In the West , only witnesses against Organized and violent criminal organizations L
    like Mafia , Bandidos, Escobars, etc. are reserved identity cancealmennts and witness protection program. Political , corruption and civil cases and proceedings don’t use identity concealments.

    • That Geez alphabet is the core of a mighty state from Axumite to Solomonic dynasties. So much that it was a beacon of African independence where other African countries considered using it to detach themselves from any European influence.

      You won’t admit it but even Oromiffa words have simple and exact letters in Geez than Latin which needs multiple letters just to write one sound. Keep taking pride in that. Just telling the facts.

  • Jawar is an American citizen who went to Ethiopia living as a guest. Ethiopian authorities are showing that their hospitality to the USA citizen Jawar Mohammed is not sincere . USA is a land of immigrants. Trump’s time is best for the homeless new arrival vulnerable Ethiopian refugee migrants in USA, in Trump’s time the infrastructures are being used to help the vulnerable segments within USA which is relieving the burden of helping the new arrivals from those of us who stayed in USA longer which is just another simple proof that Trump is siding with the ordinary Ethiopian people not with the hypocrite elites in Ethiopia . Trump is willing to let the money reach directly to those who need it without the brokers in the middle . Trump’s plan to withdraw the giving of the lump sum funds to the dellas in EPRDF PP is appropriate since instead he is willing to give it directly to the needies without the ethnic dellala middlemen EPRDF squandering the money.

    For the first time in a very long time the new arrival migrants basic needs such as housing , clothing , nutritious food , medical attention.. are being covered by the USA government . Trump’s actions so far indicate when not if Trump gets reelected he is determined to make America Great Again , by making America a land of opportunity for all. The federal law enforcement agencies had already identified cities within USA and already completed the identifying process of the identities of the habitual violent criminals within the cities, especially cities who need to be helped by sending in the federal law enforcement agencies to do the work, these identified parts of the country finally got the chance to be free from the infestation of crimes in their cities which is costing lives by the Americans loosing generations to crime. The president got the responsibility to identify the failed local law enforcement agencies and try to help enforce the law by sending in federal law enforcement agencies to do the job. Something similar to what Abiy Ahmed did when he sent his federal law enforcement agencies to arrest the terrorist Eskinder Nega and similar to when the federal law enforcement agencies arrested Lidetu Ayalew in the Oromia State.Trump is a visionary leader who is willing to make America a land of opportunity again.

  • After all what abiy did still they r blaming jawar? He is not a crimnal neither bekele n other politicians arrested but abiy know that jawar is going to defeat him on the election. This all is completed to have authorities shame on dictator government.

  • jawar Is Usless guy! after All he is not an ethiopian. He try to cheat as uf he is an ethiopian but the actual fact is he is an american. For the last two year he was spreading hate between ethnic groups. At last weyane ( TPLF)manuplate him and the end result is well known. I do expect 15 yr detantion

  • Continually whining, “Ours requires a political solution and not a legal one” is a waste of time. Time to man up and defend the allegedly committed crimes. I hope the court will throw the book at the alleged criminals and lock them for decades to come. The blood of innocent people is still in the streets of the Oromia towns and cities. Justice to all who lost their and to those who lost their loved ones.

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