By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil
Addis Abeba, June 29, 2021- Yesterday the Federal High Court Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-Terrorism Bench was scheduled to conduct hearings on the conduct of the prosecutor’s witness hearing against the defendants in Jawar Mohmmed’s file. While Ten of the defendants on the file did not appear in court, the defendants listed 1-4 on the file; Jawar Mohammed, Bekele Gerba, Hamza Adane and Dejene Tafa sent a letter explaining to the court that they will no longer attend the court hearing.
The hearing had previously been postponed to a further date as the defendants didn’t appear at the court and due to the court’s order to postpone today’s hearing to avoid possible security threats related to the election campaigns. The defendants have repeatedly expressed unwillingness to attend the hearing citing malpractices in the justice system and requested a two years long appointment until the next hearing.
At yesterday’s hearing, the prosecutor argued that the defendants’ decision not to attend their hearing is against the law. It also suggested that they should be forced to appear before the court or the hearing should proceed in their absence.
While admitting that the court’s order should be respected, the defense team explained to the court that they learned of their clients’ decision at the hearing. However, they expressed their objections to the prosecutor’s recommendation of forcefully bringing their clients to court. “There’s no reason to bring them by force while we all know where they can be found,” the lawyers said. Referring to the recent rearrest of a senior member of Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) the lawyers said, “Our clients are discouraged by the repeated dishonour of court orders witnessed by the rearrest and disappearance of OLF leaders.”
The lawyers further argued that it is improper to see the cases without the presence of the defendants and asked the court to give them a chance to speak to their clients.
In response to this, the prosecutor complained that the court proceedings should follow necessary legal processes instead and the cases must be seen accordingly, insisting that the prison administration should be ordered to bring the defendants to court.
The court then ordered the defense team to finalize their arguments by July 5, 2021 and for the defendants to appear in court on July 6, 2021.AS