Addis Abeba – Judges at the Federal Supreme Court 1st Court of Appeals have today overturned a bail granted to former senior intelligence officials including Yared Zerihun, former deputy head of the National Intelligence and Security Service(NISS); the judges also ordered the defendants to stay in police custody.
On 27 January, judges at the Federal High Court, Lideta Division 1st Corruption Crimes Bench granted a bail of 30, 000 birr each for 22 defendants charged under the file name of the Getachew Assefa, the former Director General of NISS. The judges also barred defendants who are facing charges of gross human rights violation and corruption, from leaving the country.
The decision to grant defendants the bail is overturned by the Federal Supreme Court’s 1st Court of Appeals after federal prosecutors submitted a written appeal arguing against the decision to grant the defendants bail. The appeal contained nine arguments on why the defendants should not be allowed the bail, which prosecutors said was “unfair”. Prosecutors also argued that the defendants will not return if they left custody on bail; they face multiple charges; and that they could join the TPLF, the party they are suspected of having affiliations with, if they were to be released. Furthermore, prosecutors argued that due to the nature of their works in the past on intelligence and security fields, they are well versed with knowledge of exit points from the country.
Among the 22 defendants in the file name under Getachew Assefa is Tesfaye Urgi, who was the anti-terrorism division head of NISS when the intelligence was led by Getachew. Prosecutors accused Tesfaye of alleged financial and material support for several deadly violence that occurred in various parts of the country in the wake of PM Abiy’s ascent to premiership. At his trial on 23 August 2018, investigating police told a federal court that they have found a grenade and other firearms in his possession and claimed he was directly involved in instigating violence in various parts of the country, accusations Tesfaye denied throughout the trial.
The defendant’s attorney on their side objected to the decision to reverse the bail, which they said was “a valid and constitutional right” of defendants. Prosecutors’ argument that they could not return if they were to be released and that they could join the TPLF were argument with no reasonable ground.
After weighing on the arguments from both sides, judges at the appellate court ruled to overturn the lower court’s decision to grant bail. The decision was supported by two presiding judges and opposed by one judge. The judges explained that their decision took into consideration the prosecutor’s argument that the defendants were facing multiple charges and that they may not comply with their obligations to appear at the court if they were to be released on bail. The two judges also said their decision took into consideration the current circumstances of the country vs. Article 67 (a) of the Criminal Procedure Code.
The judges have subsequently ruled that defendants should remain in police custody. The next hearing was adjourned until 01 March to hear from the defendants’ witnesses against the case. AS