Judges at the Federal High Court 19th Criminal Bench here in the capital have today adjourned the hearing until August 01, 20016 to give verdict involving the case for high level opposition figures.
The verdict will decide on whether or not defendants have a case to defend. Today’s decision came after judges have gone through prosecutors’ charges indicting defendants with terrorism related charges and the preliminary objection statements presented from the defendants.
The 22 detainees who are charged under various articles of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP) include Bekele Gerba and Dejene Fita Geleta, first secretary general and secretary general of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC). All of them were arrested between November and December 2015, shortly after the start (and in connection with) Oromo protests in November that gripped the nation for the next five months. Defendants include several members of OFC, students and civil servants who came from various parts of the Oromia regional state.
Prosecutors have charged the 22 with various articles of the ATP. The charges include, but not limited to, alleged membership of the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), public incitement, encouraging violence, as well as causing the death of innocent civilians and property destructions in cities such as Ambo and Adama, 120km west and 100km east of Addis Abeba, during the recent Oromo protests in Ethiopia
Speaking to the court on behalf of the first four defendants, Dejene Fita Geleta said that he and the three other co-defendants with him, Addis Bulala, Gurmesa Ayano, and Bekele Gerba, have all been kept in a dark room since the last hearing on June 03 and were only allowed irregular family visits which often lasts between three-five minutes. He also told the court that the cell in which all the four were kept at has an open toilet inside it.
Lawyer Amha Mekonnen, who represented the four, on his part told the court that his client Bekele Gerba was denied access to a prescription medication after falling ill inside the facility. He also filed complaints to the court that the prison administration often confiscates lawyers’ notebooks after meeting their clients inside the facility. The court told the prison administration to respond to complaints on July 4.
Unlike their appearances in the last hearing on June 3, during which the prison police brought all detainees barefoot, and wearing only shorts and shirts, all the detainees have today appeared properly dressed.
Photos: Bekele Gerba and his co-defendants arriving at court this morning/Addis Standard