By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil
Addis Abeba, May 20, 2021– Defendants on Jawar Mohammed’s file were arraigned at the Federal High Court Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-terrorism Bench today to resume the prosecutor’s witness heairng which was has been suspended since April 13, 2021.
During the hearing defendants requested the judges to postpone the hearing by up to two years until after “the elections were held and the government was calmed.”
This comes a day after the Federal Supreme Court, 2nd Appeals Bench closed the file on the prosecutor’s appeal by overturning a decision made by the Federal High Court on the conduct of prosecutor’s witness hearing.
“Our trials should resume after the election; you might as well adjourn the hearing until 2023 or even 2025.” Bekele gerba said. The defendants made the argument saying that their trial has no legal merit as it is “a political trial.”
At today’s hearing, the second defendant in the file, Bekele Gerba of the oppostion Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) expressed discontent with the trial. “What is the use of holding a trial in a country where people are publicly executed, prisoners remain behind bars after the court orders their release or get abducted upon the are released?” he said, adding “our trials should continue after the election. You might as well adjourn the hearing until 2023 or 2025.” The defendants made the argument saying that their trial has no legal merit as it is “a political trial.”
Jawar Mohammed, the first defendant on the file shared similar sentiments, “The government wants us to remain behind bars. They will keep us detained even if the court sets us free.”
The prosecutor on its part reminded the court that the courtroom is not the place to discuss political issues. The court then explained that it has not received the orders from the Supreme Court on the prosecutors appeal.
After the Federal High Court rejected the prosecutor’s request to hold a closed door and behind the curtains hearing, the prosecutors filed an appeal at the Federal Supreme court to overturn the decision. During the court hearings at the Supreme Court, the prosecutor argued that holding witness hearings in open sessions threatens the security of its 146 witnesses. The supreme court yesterday directed the hearing back to the Federal High Court and closed the file on the prosecutors appeal because it failed to make the case for the threat posed to its witnesses.
The court rejected the defendants’ request to postpone the hearing and adjourned the hearing until May 26, 2021. AS