By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil
Addis Abeba, April 6, 2021 – Today’s court hearing was set up to hear the decision on prosecutor’s appeal to overturn a decision made by the Federal High Court, Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-Terrorism Bench that a closed-door and behind curtain prosecutor’s witnesses hearing be held in the case of the five defendants Eskinder Nega, founder of the opposition party Balederas for Genuine Democracy. The Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division was to pass its decision at today’s hearing; however, neither the defendants nor prosecutors appeared in court. The number of presiding judges assigned to the file was also incomplete.
It was on December 8, 2020 that the Federal High Court, Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-Terrorism Bench ruled against the prosecutor’s request for behind a curtain witness testimony. The defense team argued that defendants have no way of knowing if the witnesses were reading from a script while prosecutors cited witness protection provisions as their reason for requesting a behind a curtain,closed door hearing. The judges dismissed prosecutors’ request on the grounds that it will violate the rights of the defendants.
Prosecutors appealed at the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Division on March 9, 2021.The cassation court was set to pass a decision today, April 6, 2021. The defendants were set to attend the session via audio visual medium. The hearing was conducted in the absence of one out of three judges, the defendants and the prosecutor.
The defense team argued that the prosecutor is intentionally prolonging the process to prevent their clients from participating in the upcoming election. The last hearing was four months ago where Eskinder voiced his concerns about the gap in time between appointments and asked to be brought closer because among the defendants were candidates of his party ready to participate in the upcoming election. The court adjourned the hearing to April 23, 2021. AS