By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne
Addis Abeba – Colonel Gemechu Ayana, senior Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) leader was arranged at the federal supreme court cassation bench. The court saw the case of him and four other ranking members of the party over 3 months after the court closed the file but ruled that the defendants remain under the custody for the court ‘didn’t know who arrested them’. One of the defendants on the file, Amanuel Ejigu Merga, is allegedly killed by government security forces according to Lammi Gemechu interim public relations head of the OLF.
The case of Colonel Gemechu et. al was brought to the cassation bench on Monday after the prosecutor filed an appeal against the decision by the supreme court to suspend the case until the prosecutor finalizes its investigation. The cassation bench scheduled a hearing on Monday to see the case of the five defendants but the prosecutors failed to appear in court according to the defense team.
So the hearing was postponed to Wednesday, May 18, 2022, where members of the federal police commission were asked by the court to explain the conditions surrounding the detention of Colonel Gemech et. al. The policemen responded by explaining that they don’t know about the detention after which the court ordered the director of the federal police investigation bureau to be summoned to court for the following day.
Accordingly, the head of the federal police investigation bureau was summoned to court today to provide an explanation. He stated that the federal police commission was not entrusted with the Colonel by the Oromia police commission as proclaimed by the prosecutor at yesterday’s hearing.
Yesterday, the prosecutor said that the Oromia police commission entrusted the federal police with Colonel Gemechu and that it asked them to keep him under custody in a letter. “We don’t have a copy of it but the prosecutor showed the letter to the judges,” Tuli said.
The police commander who was arraigned in court today however refuted the prosecutor’s claim and asserted that the federal police brought the defendants to the federal supreme court in November last year as per the court order. The police commander explained that the federal police commission later found out that the defendants were under the custody of the Oromia police commission, then brought the defendants to the federal court from there.
At today’s hearing, the prosecutor was ordered to provide an explanation surrounding the killing of one of the defendants, Amanuel Ejigu, Tuli said. Additionally, the court ordered the arraignment of the Oromia police commission to explain the detainment of Colonel Gemechu. Moreover, the cassation bench ordered the arraignment of 3 out of the five defendants, Kisu Qituma, Usman Hassen, and Lemmesa Takele, and adjourned the hearing until May 23, 2022.
Speaking on the death of Amanuel Ejigu, the PR head of the OLF told Addis Standard that Amanuel Ejigu was taken out of Kilinto Federal Prison and killed by security forces on December 18, 2021. He detailed that Amanuel was killed in the East Wollega zone, in Nekemte town at a place called Jato around St. Gabriel church while the hearing was ongoing.
Lammi further explained that Usman Hassen and Lemmesa Takele who are detained with Colonel Gemechu in the federal police commission headquarters in Addis Abeba were released eventually in the following weeks after the case file was closed in February. Similarly, Kisi Qituma, who was detained at Kilinto federal prison was also released.
The five defendants including the deceased were among the 12 people whom the federal High Court 3rd Anti-Terrorism and Constitutional Bench acquitted of terrorism charges back on May 19, 2021. Only Colonel Gemchu remains under custody, according to Tuli.
In November last year, the prosecutor then filed an appeal at the federal supreme court 6 months after the acquittal of the defendants. The prosecutor filed an appeal against the decision made by the federal high court which dismissed the prosecutor’s evidence that included tapped phone conversations which are no longer admissible in court as per the new proclamation 1176/2012.
After a series of court hearings featuring several postponements and even the absence of judges, over the next several months, the supreme court ended up suspending the prosecutor’s appeal in February.
The whereabouts of two of the defendants were reportedly “unknown” at the time. Lawyer Milkiyas Bulcha told Addis Standard at the time that the court ordered the prosecutor to provide an explanation and launch an investigation into the alleged rights violations that the detainees suffered at the hands of security forces. AS