By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne
Addis Abeba, January 11/2022 – Colonel Gemechu Ayana, a senior leader of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) was yesterday arraigned at court alongside four other defendants to continue the hearing after the prosecutor filed an appeal against the charges the court dropped about seven months ago.
On November 29, 2021, Colonel Gemechu was brought to the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Bench after the prosecutor filed an appeal six months after he and 13 other OLF members were acquitted of terrorism. He remained under police custody after he was briefly disappeared by security forces and taken to an undisclosed location.
The hearings in December, 2021 were postponed multiple times. At his first appearance after his acquittal, Gemechu had to attend the hearing in the absence of his defense team because they were was not made aware of his court appearance, a family member told Addis Standard at the time. The hearing was postponed until the next day but the police did not bring the defendants to court on that day either. The last hearing before yesterday’s was on December 29th.
The Federal Supreme Court Cassation Bench was set to conduct hearings on the prosecutor’s appeal to overturn the decision made by the federal high court. The federal high court dismissed the prosecutor’s evidence that included tapped phone conversations which are no longer admissible in court as per the new proclamation 1176/2012.
The prosecutor argued that the new proclamation was ratified after it brought terrorism charges on the defendants. The prosecutor also complained to the cassation court that it could not find witnesses from the East and West Wollega zones due to the security situation. Therefore, the prosecutor asked the cassation court to overturn the federal high court’s decision to acquit the defendants and to be allowed to use the tapped phone conversations as evidence.
Yesterday’s hearing was adjourned until January 27, 2022.
Colonel Gemechu is a member of OLF’s political officer who was arrested in July 2020. Over the course of 18 months, he remained jailed after he was repeatedly granted bail and acquitted at last. He was re-arrested multiple times and transferred to several detention camps without the knowledge of his family and lawyers. In January last year, he was transferred to a division in the detention center known for constant fights among inmates. The recently released leaders of Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba went on a hunger strike demanding the transfer of Colonel Gemechu to a safer prison cell .AS