Law & JusticeNewsSomali Regional State

News: Court postpones witness hearing against former Somali state president; orders arrest of absent interpreter

By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil 

Addis Abeba – The Federal High Court Lideta Division First Anti-Terrorism and Constitutional Affairs Criminal bench was unable to conduct the prosecutor witness hearing against former Somalia Regional State President Abdi Muhamud Omer a.k.a Abdi Iley, due to the absence of an interpreter whose order for arrest was issued at today’s hearing. 

The Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC)’s Af Somali department journalist, Abdullahi Remy, who was summoned to appear as an interpreter for the defendants at today’s hearing, failed to appear due to illness and consequently, the court was unable to hear witnesses’ testimony. 

Stating that the interpreter called them about his absence in advance, the defendant’s lawyers asked the court to give them an alternative appointment. 

The defendants complained that their case was being delayed due to various reasons, including the absence of the interpreter, and requested the court to make sure of the availability of an interpreter from other government bureaus. 

The court adjourned the hearing until Friday, 15 April, and ordered the arrest of Abdullahi Remy within 24 hours.

Background

At a hearing held on 09 August 2019, Abdi Iley told the judges that he was no longer continuing his trial with his defense team because the judges and prosecutors handling his trial were not allowing his defense team present their properly.

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Speaking on his own behalf, today he told the judges that during his ten year tenure “other than administering the [Somali] regional state, I did not commit any crime; I am not guilty,” and denied all charges against him. He also said that what happened in Somali region during his presidency was no different than what is happening today in other regions and therefor he should not be held accountable.

Abdi Iley was first arrested on 27 August 2018 and was subsequently charged with crime including the death of 59 civilians and the burning of multiple churches and property destruction in Somali regional state during a violence in the weekend of 04 August 2018. Some 266 civilians were also injured.

On 30 January 2019 Federal prosecutors have charged 47 individuals, including Abdi Iley, with criminal charges related with the August 2018 violence in Somali regional state. However, of the 47 people who were charged under Abdi Iley ’s file, only 15 are currently being tried.

At the 09 August 2019 hearing, the defense team of the remaining suspects have complained to the court that their clients are facing mistreatment related to the delays of the hearing, which is ongoing for the last 15 months, and police’s slow paced procedures of gathering witness testimonials and material evidence. The judges promised to expedite the hearing while upholding the rule of law. AS

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