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News: Police in Jimma defy court bail, transfer Uni. graduate, two others to separate police station. Rights Commission calls for their immediate release

Jimma University Graduate Mohammed Deksiso. Picture: Social Media

By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne

Addis Abeba, February 24/2021 – The police in Jimma city, Oromia regional state, defied court order to release on bail Jimma university graduate Mohammed Deksiso and two staffers of the university and transferred them to a different police station to which the court’s order for bail wasn’t addressed to, a source with knowledge about the matter told Addis Standard.

Mohammed Deksiso was arrested on February 14 shortly after calling out ‘Free Jawar Mohammed, Justice for Hachalu Hundessa’ at a graduation ceremony of Jimma University, which was being attended by, among others, Shimelis Andissa, President of Oromia regional state, and Chief Justice Meaza Ashenafi.

After the arrest the police brought to a court Mohammed and the two others, Mulugeta Shitee, a lecturer at the university who was performing at the ceremony, and Wondimu Legesse Abba Dafar (PhD) who is the head of Public relations at Jimma University, and accused them of inciting violence and affiliation with an armed group.

The three were arrested shortly after the graduation ceremony on February 14. Our source said that Mohammed was then taken away “to the woods” and was beaten by security forces. He was seen battered at his first court appearance on February 15, and still suffers from the injury. However he said that his mistreatment didn’t happen police station he was held at.

Imad A. Tune, head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), Oromia branch, told Addis Standard that the commission has sent a team to pay Mohammed a visit and saw that he did survive the injuries. Although the commission asked for his medical treatment and speedy trial, until the publishing of this news Mohammed has neither received medical treatment, nor was he released after the court granted him bail . The commission is of the opinion that the actions of Mohammed didn’t amount to a crime. “It could get him disciplinary action from the university at most but it doesn’t amount to getting him to a criminal investigation.”

In a statement released today, EHRC has called for the immediate release of Mohammed Deksiso. The commission expressed its concerns about court orders not being respected in Oromia regional state and called for the release of Mohammed and many others who have been granted bail. The statement confirmed that Mohammed was beaten by the police and noticed that his legs were slightly swollen and affected his walking.

In addition to him being detained by using investigation as a premise, the fact that he hasn’t been released after the court granted him bail is a “violation of human rights”, EHRC said, and asked for an investigation into the beating and urged that there should be accountability. The commission reiterated its call for the release of prisoners who have met bail conditions in various prisons in the Oromia region.

The commissioner of the EHRC, Danel Bekele (PhD), said “the increasing incidence of dishonor of court orders in the Oromia region is a matter of great concern and needs immediate attention and resolution.”

On February 15 Jimma city district court granted 7 days to the police to remand and investigate and adjourned the hearing for February 22 during which the police requested for additional 14 days to remand and investigate the defendants’ alleged involvement in enticing violence by organizing the students and employees of Jimma university and having connections with armed groups. Mohammed explained to the court that he was exercising his freedom of speech. Wondimu was accused of facilitating the live broadcast of Mohammed staging a protest at the graduation ceremony while Mulugeta was accused of handing over the mic after his performance to Mohammed for him to stage the protest.  

The defense team argued that the actions that got their clients arrested was recorded on camera and their clients have already entered a plea. The lawyers demanded that the investigator should either provide sufficient evidence and file charges or the court should release their clients.

The court gave an appointment to February 23, 2020 to pass a decision. The demand by the investigators for additional 14 days was denied. The court granted 2000 ETB for each of them and closed the file for lack of sufficient evidence. “We are still not sure what’s going to happen” our source said cautiously,  “We have yet to see if they will be released after their families pay the bail.” The family has deposited the amount and are awaiting for their release. AS

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