Law & JusticeNewsOromia Regional StateOromo Liberation Front

News Update: Senior OLF leader Col. Gemechu Ayana free at last after nearly two years in detention

By Siyanne Mekonnen @Siyaanne

Addis Abeba – Colonel Gemechu Ayana, senior leader Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), was today released after almost 2 years of detention, sources said. The Federal Supreme Court Cassation bench yesterday ruled to set free Colonel Gemechu Ayana and subsequently ordered his release from police custody. However, his release was finalized this morning. 

Colonel Gemechu, who was previously jailed and freed from charges was re-arrested in July 2020 after the assassination of Hachalu Hundessa where terrorism charges were re-instated. On 19 May 2021, Colonel Gemechu and thirteen other individuals were taken by security forces after the Federal High Court 3rd Anti-Terrorism and Constitutional Bench court acquitted them and ordered their release. 

He remained jailed despite being granted bail and was re-arrested multiple times and transferred to more than 18 formal and informal detention camps without the knowledge of his family and lawyers, according to his lawyers. In January last year, he was transferred to a division in the detention center known for constant fights among inmates. The leaders of the 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. 

On November 29, 2021, Colonel Gemechu was brought to the Federal Supreme Court Cassation Bench after the prosecutor filed an appeal six months after his acquittal. The hearings of the defendants in Colonel Gemechu’s file after the reopening of the file featured many irregularities including an absence of judges from the trials. 

After a series of postponed hearings, on 9 February this year, the federal supreme court closed the case file of Colonel Gemechu and four other ranking members of the party after the defense team filed complaints of human rights violations and defiance of court orders by prosecutors and the police. The court however decided that the defendants remain under  custody since “they don’t know who arrested them.” 

Three of the five defendants in the case file: Kisu Qituma, Usman Hassen, and Lemmesa Takelewere have since been released but their cases were pending; and one defendant, Amanuel Ejigu Merga, was reportedly killed by government security forces, according to Lammi Gemechu, interim public relations head of the OLF. 

The case of Colonel Gemechu et. al was brought to the cassation bench last Monday after the prosecutor filed an appeal against the decision by the supreme court to suspend the case until the prosecutor finalizes its investigation. 

The prosecutor was ordered to provide an explanation surrounding the killing of Amanuel Ejigu. The court also ordered the arraignment of the Oromia police commission on 23 May to explain the circumstances surrounding the continued detention of Colonel Gemechu. However, the police commission did not send its representatives per court orders. 

Previously, the federal police explained to the court that they have no cases against Colonel Gemechu but were keeping him in detention on behalf of the Oromia police. At the hearing yesterday, the court ordered the release of Colonel Gemechu. AS

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