Court heard remaining defense witnesses of Gurmessa Ayano et al – August 16/2017 hearing

Federal high court Lideta branch 4th criminal bench has heard remaining defense witnesses of Gurmessa Ayano et al who are defending terrorism charge. The court started today’s session by hearing Qilinto Prison Administration Head Assefa Kidane’s response on why he banned lunch for defendants that were brought by their families during yesterday’s hearing.

“We bring over 300 defendants to court per day. We supply food for those who have a court hearing in the afternoon, we will face security problems if we allow defendants to receive food from families. We are doing this in accordance with the prison administration’s law,” Assefa said to the court.

Judges asked him further elaboration in the prison’s law. Assefa on his part mentioned prison’s law (directory) article 138(10) which says that “prison administration supplies healthy food for prisoners”. However, as to Assefa Kidane, prison administration only supplied bread for each defendant at court due to lack of capacity. “They would have been offered full lunch in prison cell,” he said.

“If the prison administration has such lack of capacity to supply full lunch for defendants at court, how does court’s order to let the administration receive food from families for defendants violate the law you are referring?” judges asked Assefa Kidane.

However, Assefa once again gave security problem as a reason. He also apologized for yesterday’s (August 15) inconveniences related to lunch for the defendants during the court session.

2nd judge Yacob Mekuria reminded the administration that getting food is a human right, and the prison administration has refused to accept the court order not only at yesterday’s hearing but also time and again. The judge told to Assefa Kidane to respect court orders. Accordingly, the court adjourned for tomorrow to give a proper verdict on this case and ordered Assefa Kidane reappear in tomorrow’s hearing too.

After hearing prison administration’s response, the court proceeded to hear remaining defense witnesses. Accordingly, two defense witnesses for the first defendant Gurmessa Ayano appeared and gave their testimony.

The two defense witnesses have testified that Gurmessa Ayano had never met with those people who presented as prosecutor witnesses. First defense witness Daba Tufa, member of OFC and resident of Burayu town, has known the defendant at OFC’s head office in Addis Ababa. Gurmessa went to Burayu town in October 31/2016 and called to this witness and went together to Burayu town administration to submit a letter notifying that OFC would hold a public meeting. Then, the defense witness himself helped Gurmessa take a taxi back to Addis Ababa after submitting the letter, he testified. The defendant and the defense witness had met the following day in the same way and went to Burayu town administration to hear the response to their notification. Thus, the defendant had never met those people who appeared as prosecutor witnesses during those days, he testified.

The defense witness also revealed that prosecution witness who told the court that his name was Tulu Herena was not telling his real name; his name is Shiferaw Herena. “Both prosecutor witnesses against Gurmessa Ayano (witnesses Shiferaw Herena and Bulcha Tadesse) had also falsely testified against me in 2015 and 2016 when I was charged. And the court acquitted me by then,” the defense witness told the court.

The second defense witness is Shimeles Temesegen. Defense lawyers noted that the defense witness will testify on the same issues. Following this, the prosecutor objected that he shall not be heard if he has no different issues to testify on. Lawyers on their part argued that it is the defendant who can decide whether the witness is heard or not; not the prosecutor.

The court on its part decided that the defense witness won’t be heard because he is testifying on similar issues as the first witness. The next hearing adjourned to tomorrow (August 17/2017) to hear remaining defense witnesses.

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