Addis Abeba – Judges at the Federal High Court Lideta Branch, 3rd Corruption Trial Bench, today allowed a request submitted by former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn asking to give his testimony for former senior Metal and Engineering Corporation (MeTEC) officials, including Major General Kinfe Dagnew, Former Director General of MeTEC.
Four defendants in Maj. Gen’s Kinfe’s case are facing corruption charges amounting 319.4 million birr involving the purchase of tractors, among other charges, and called on former PM Hailemariam as defense witness in their cases against the charges.
Others in the defense witness list include former Former Foreign Minister and Currently the Executive Director of IGAD, Workneh Gebeyehu (PhD); former Minister of Urban Development and Construction and current Commissioner of the Civil Service Commission Commissioner, Mekuria Haile (PhD), and former Mayor of Addis Abeba City, Diriba Kuma (Ambassador; and former Defense Minister, Siraj Fegessa. The Court has called on all witnesses to appear and give their testimonies.
Their testimony is sought by the defense team in relation to two ships, which MeTEC has allegedly bought from the Ethiopian Maritime Transport and Logistics Service. According prosecutors, the ships have been in service for more than 28 years and should not have been bought for a cost of 60, million birr in fraudulent manner, which has resulted in the government losing more than 500 million birr.
Former PM Hailemariam, whose testimony is sought in connection with the alleged fraudulent procurement of the tractors, has submitted a letter to the court on 28 January that he was unable to appear in court because he was outside of the country.
After reviewing the request and speaking with the court’s management, judges have accepted the request today and ruled that they will consult on the proceeds with prosecutors and defense lawyers. In addition to former PM Hailemariam, the judges also ruled in favor of online testimony from former Ambassador Fisseha Asgedom, who is currently residing in the US.
At a hearing in April last year, the first defendant, Maj. Gen Kinfe, argued that the procurement of the said tractors were overseen by former PM Hailemariam.
Among defense witnesses listed, former Defense Minister Siraj Fegessa has appeared in court during today’s hearing and gave his testimonies on the procurement processes involving the purchase of the tractors.
At a hearing in April last year, the first defendant, Maj. Gen Kinfe, argued that the procurement of the said tractors were overseen by former PM Hailemariam. The other defense witness in the same file is Ahmed Shide, Minister of Finance, who has already given his testimony to the court in July last year.
The trial of Maj. Gen. Kinfe started four years ago with the arrest of more than 60 officials, mostly from Ethiopia’s intelligence and military apparatus, which started with the arrest of 40 on Friday 09 November 2018. Then attorney general Berhanu Tsegaye accused detainees of serious alleged human rights violations and a network of alleged corruption within the Metals and Engineering Corporation (MetEC), a state owned business enterprise managed by the army during the EPRDF rule.
The attorney general (AG) said investigations were being conducted into three separate cases: investigations into the bombing at the pro Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rally in Addis Abeba on June 23/2018 ; investigations into gross human rights violations by pre-Abiy Ahmed’s EPRDF led security, intelligence and police units; as well as investigations into the alleged corruption networks within MeTEC. The cases for the later two accusations are still in the court. AS