The 19th criminal bench of the federal high court has heard two defense witnesses of land rights activist Omot Agwa on June 12/2017 in addition to the five defense witnesses already heard before.
The witnesses were Samson Abate and former president for the Gambella regional state Okelo Akway who both are now currently in jail.
The first witness Samson mentioned that he is a civil servant and resides in Addis Ababa Yeka sub-city. He told the court that he came to know the defendant in 1996 when he was a member of the peace committee organized to stabilize the then conflict in Gambela region.
According to the witness, the defendant was at the forefront to help the reconciliation process while he was working in nonprofit organization that has cooperated with the regional government. He said the organization was successful in minimizing the tension in the region by bringing the rebels back to their normal life according to the witness, 20,000 fellow citizens returned to home as a result of the defendant’s effort. The witness claimed that he was a journalist at the time and he came to know the defendant in his capacity as a journalist.
Former president of Gambella regional state, Okelo Akway, who is convicted of attempting to separate Gambella from the federal government by using force and sentenced for nine years, was the other witness appeared to court. He told the court that he knew the defendant since their childhood as they belong to the same village.
Noting that the time that was difficult for Gambella, as over 850 houses burnet and about 3,000 residents displeased to Sudan, the witness confirmed that Omot played a great role in stabilizing the area. He further said that he was the one who recommended for Pastor Omot to be part of the committee in line with the plan of the federal government to include religious and community leaders in the committee. Noting that he used to report to the federal government, the witness told the court that 2400 out of 3,000 displaced residents came back home following the efforts made by the committee members including Omot.
The witness also set the record straight on when he met with the defendant, the allegation that the two meet after the witness fired from his presidency is not true and he knows Omot since childhood. As per the request of the defendant’s lawyer, the court gave adjournment to hear three more witnesses from Zeway and Shewarobit prisons on July 27/2017.
The defendant was detained at Bole International Airport while he was about to fly to Nairobi- Kenya for an environment protection and food security workshop. His charges were downgraded from terrorism charge to article 256/A/ of the criminal code. Appealing to the Federal Supreme Court, the defendant was released with a bail of 50,000 Birr after the charges were changed.