Two witnesses against 6th and 11th defendants have been heard in Dec 29/2016 hearing. Dawud Abegaz was the prosecutor witness against the 11th detainee (Beyene Rudo). He told the court that he was asked by police to observe when he was at Maekelawi to visit his relative who works there on the 29th of Jan 2016. He said that he together with another observer named Tesfaye Hailemariam observed in room no 31 of the interrogation center. He said that he saw the detainee signed on 40 pages and three pages of papers printed from his facebook and email accounts respectively.
The witness told the court that he couldn’t know what the content was all about given that it was written in Afaan Oromo which he does not speak and understand. He further told the court that the documents printed included pictures of soldiers holding OLF flag written slogans on it. Asked about how he identified whether the flag was that of OLF he said it was not difficult as he had seen it on television before and he remembers the red and green colors. He was also asked what made him say slogans if the written material was in Afaan Oromo, The witness said that the written material ‘seemed to call for violence and unrest’.
The witness against the 6th defendant (Gellana Negera) was Asefa Teshome from a woreda administration office of the Arada sub-city, Addis Abeba. He told the court that he was there at Maekelawi as he was called to observe. He said he remembers that the detainee received a phone call at the time and the caller appreciated the detainee’s confidentiality. The witness further said that he remembers that the detainee had confessed that he organized the youth in Jeldu forest of east Shewa zone and received order from abroad that he should stay away from any conflict with the government security forces until the OLF army reaches there to support.
He said that he himself signed on a three pages of paper about what he observed at the time and did not remember about that of the detainee.
The witness also told the court that he had sat a bit far from the detainee and interrogator so that he was not sure if there were anything written thing on the paper before. But he said the interrogator was writing on the same paper the detainee signed.
Asked by the detainee’s lawyer about the exact date the witness was called for observation to Maekelawi, the witness said it was Dec 03/2015. The witness assured his certainty when asked by the prosecutor again.
At the end 2nd defendant Dejene Taffa forwarded his claim over the procedure. “The prosecutor must follow the right procedure. We acknowledge the positive sides we are experiencing from the side of the judges but we want improvements from the side of the prosecutor. We only hope the relative democracy we are experiencing from the judges.” The judges on their part assured that they care about the procedures too and would work on it. “…we shoulder a great responsibility here. And we want you to avoid your doubts on this.”
In the afternoon hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to defer the hearing on the witness to the next adjournment (Jan 3-5) claiming that the remaining witness does not answer phone calls. Judges asked the prosecutor if he wants the witness to appear to court being under custody and the prosecutor said he does not want that. Instead he said he wanted him to appear to court in the following hearing together with other witnesses. Lawyers representing the 13th and 7th detainees lauded their objection that the adjournment is not fair given that the prosecutor does not show interest to present witnesses. They requested the court to reject the request of the prosecutor considering that the right of their clients to get justice is being delayed because of unsounding reasons.
“It is clear that the prosecutor has had various chances. He usually comes late. Although he was supposed to present the 42 witness in the right order, he has been presenting in unorganized way just the way he likes and he has not experienced any refusals. He is not being able to explain the overall conditions of witnesses apart from dealing with their numbers. He shall not be given any more chances. We are in prison. We are suffering. No one except the one who experiences the real life we are in can understand it. It was for the last time that the prosecutor was given a verdict to present his witnesses. Even if there is a need to hear any more witnesses, let the one who was unable to appear today get heard and leave the others.” said Bekele Gerba.
Dejene Taffa added the following, “this was meant to be the last one. There are a total of 42 witnesses on the list. It would take only five days if it were possible to hear 10 daily. Okay, let’s say 10 are ambitious. It would be completed within 8 days if you were hearing 5 witnesses daily. We are suffering. The prosecutor can do whatever it wants. It has got the power. It can force its witnesses to appear to court. But it has failed to do so and present testimonials. We do not deserve to suffer as a result of this. You can see that we are made to trouble deliberately. The prosecutor should feel our pain. The government shall not practice its dictatorial power with us. Aren’t we Ethiopians? The prosecutor is definitely challenging the court. Hence, I demand that another time shall not be given to the prosecutor other than time to hear the witness who has not appeared in today’s hearing.”
The prosecutor on the other hand asked the court to be given more time to present the rest 12 witnesses. Judges on their part asked the prosecutor to submit what he thinks remain. They told him that the list he submitted is not clearly stated and disorganized. The prosecutor submitted its list after editing recommended from them. Judges told the prosecutor that it should work harder to follow the legal procedures appropriately.
They have also emphasized that detainees should have trust on them noting that they are working independently and fairly. Finally they gave verdict that:
- the recorded testimonial of witnesses heard today must be attached to the file before the next adjournment
- The witnesses who were supposed to appear being under custody must be put under custody within 24 hours and brought to court. Reason for their failure to appear should be explained.
- witnesses who received court warrantee and failed to appear should be put under custody within 24 hours and brought to appear to the court
- the witness who was supposed to appear today should be put under custody within 24 hours and brought here
- regarding those who allegedly changed addresses, evidence should be brought from the nearby administration offices about their address change and disappearance
- Next hearing is adjourned to Jan 3-5/2017.