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News: Fed. Court suspends witness hearing in Jawar et al case after prosecutor appeals at Supreme Court to proceed behind curtains, in closed-door

Defendants from left: Bekele Gerba, Jawar Mohammed, Dejene Tafa and Hamza Borana of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)

By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil

Addis Abeba, April 13, 2021 –The Federal High Court Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-terrorism Bench has today told the defendants on Jawar Moahammed file that the court has suspended witness hearing for two more weeks after prosecutors filed an appeal at the Federal Supreme Court on April 9, 2021.

the prosecutor has appealed against this ruling at the Supreme Court, leading to today’s suspension of the start of witness hearing

Federal prosecutor filed the appeal at the Supreme Court after the Federal High Court, on April 6, rejected the prosecutor’s request for a closed-door and behind the curtain witness hearing proceeding, which was scheduled to commence today. In its ruling on April 06, the high court rejected the prosecutor’s request on the grounds that the nature of the threat posed to its witnesses was not backed by sufficient evidence. The court also cited Article 20 of the constitution which states that everyone charged with an offence is entitled to a public hearing before the court of law. However, the court ruled that the prosecutor’s witness hearing should proceed without disclosing the names of the witnesses. However, the prosecutor has appealed against this ruling at the Supreme Court, leading to today’s suspension of the start of witness hearing.

In addition, the defense team told the High Court today that they had not received any court order from Supreme Court to appear and respond to the appeal by the federal prosecutor. They also pointed out their clients’ complaint with regard to access to health private health facility, as well as telephone communication with family members of the a ruling passed in previous court hearings, were not implemented by the prison administration.

The 1st defendant, Jawar Mohammed has appealed to have acess to treatment to undergo dental operation to treat the sores connected to two teeth, as per recommndation from doctors.

The 2nd defendant, Bekele Gerba on his part told the court that defendants would like to physically appear before the Supreme Court to respond to the prosecutor’s appeal. He also asked the court to order the prison administration to provide him with COVID-19 vaccine as he has other health conditions that make him vulnerable.

In response, the judges ruled that the prison administration should facilitate telephone communications between defendants and their families living abroad, as well as facilitate COVID-19 vaccination for defendant Bekele Gerba.

The court also ordered the Jawar’s defense team to submit a doctor’s written prescription for dental surgery at the judge’s office so that the court could give an order on the medical treatment. 

The court however dismissed Bekele Gerba’s request for physical attendance at the Supreme Court to respond to the prosecutor’s appeal and instead ruled for defense lawyers to appear in person and for the defendants to follow the proceed through plasma TV.

The court adjourned the next hearing until April 28, subject to the final decision by the Supreme Court on the appeal by the prosecutor on the conduct of witness hearing.

Tuli Bayisa, one of the defense team, told Addis Standard that they have not received the Supreme Court’s order to appear and respond to the appeal by the federal prosecutor until the publication of this news. AS 

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