By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil
Addis Abeba, March 15/2021– Today the Federal High Court, Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-Terrorism Bench saw the case of 24 defendants in Jawar Mohammed’s file who are charged in violation of Article 240 of the 1996 Penal Code, violation of the Proclamation No. 1176 /2012 on Terrorism Prevention and Control and violation of the Telecom Fraud Proclamation No. 761/2004
Lawyers told the court that defendants Bekele Gerba, Hamza Borana, Jawar Mohammed and Shemsedin Taha could not appear in court today because they didn’t make full recovery from the 40 days long hunger strike. A court session related to a plea hearing was set to take place on January 27, 2021 but could not take place after as the defendants refused to attend the plea hearing as a protest to the detention of their supporters and families. The police had summarily detained their supporters and families who showed up at the court premises wearing yellow in solidarity with the accused who were also wearing yellow prison jumpsuits. The hearing was first adjourned to February 04, 2021 then again adjourned to March 01, 2021 both times due to defendants’ inability to sit through hearings as the medical conditions of the accused were worsening after they went into a hunger strike.
However, the continued hunger strikes that started on January 27, 2021 couldn’t allow court sessions to take place until March 15, 2021, an date the judge has set for the next hearing to take place on the last adjourned hearing of March 01, 2021. During the session this morning, the defense team explained that their clients were discharged from Landmark hospital only a day ago and their Doctors ordered a five-day recovery period and asked the judges to give an alternative appointment for the absentee detainees including the 15 defendants who appeared in court today.
On the other hand, prosecutors argued that failing to enter a plea would be considered as denying charges under Criminal Code 133. Based on that, the court ordered that the defendants who were present at the court should enter a plea. The 15 defendants who appeared in the court pleaded not guilty while the 9th defendant on the file told the court that he could not speak Amharic and needed a translator. At the end of the hearing, the prosecutors demanded that the absentee defendants bring their sick leave to the next session and the hearing was adjourned until March 22, 2021. AS