Addis Abeba, March 10/2017 – The Federal High court 19th criminal bench has today denied bail to Dr. Merera Gudina, chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC).
Dr. Merera is facing multiple criminal charges that include an attempt to violently overthrow the constitutional order. He requested the court to grant him bail after prosecutors have brought the charges against him, and two others in absentia: Dr.Berhanu Nega, leader of the opposition Patriotic G7, and Jawar Mohammed, head of OMN Television and a prominent Oromo activist, as well as two foreign-based media organizations OMN and ESAT.
In an impassioned statement after he was denied the bail, Dr. Merera made his dismissal of the charges and the court’s decision to deny him bail clear and said that as an academician who puts his country’s wellbeing before his interest, he has been at the center of the struggle to a better Ethiopia for over 45 years.
“Let it be known that as if being charged with a crime because of my struggles to create a just and democratic Ethiopia is not enough, to be denied a right to bail, which can even be conferred to an ordinary criminal let alone someone like me who has once served as a parliamentarian, causes a deep sense of anguish not only on me but also on the people of my country who are fated to live a life of misery,” he said.
The court denied Dr. Merera the bail on grounds of a written objection submitted to it yesterday by prosecutors citing the graveness of the charges and, to a certain degree, procedural irregularities.
Although initial reports, including on Addis Standard, wrongly quoted a lawyer as saying the charges were punishable by up to ten years in prison, the first of the three charges against Dr. Merera, an attempt to violently overthrow the constitutional order in contempt of Ethiopia’s criminal code article 32/1 (a & b) carries a sentence of life in prison up to death. The second charge that accuses Dr. Merera of violating article 12/1 of the current state of emergency is punishable by up to five years in jail; while the third charge accusing him of disobeying article 486/b of the criminal code by giving a false and damaging statement about the government to a media, carries a sentence of up to three years in jail.
The court adjourned the next hearing on April 24, during which Dr. Merera is expected to present his preliminary objections. AS