The attorney for Gurmmessa Ayano and others announced today that Mr. Lema Megerssa and Dr. Abiy Ahmed would appear in court as defense witnesses.
The defense attorney who claims to have spoken to the testifying officials said he has received assurances that Mr. Lema Megerssa including other officials will appear in court as defendant’s witnesses.
On the other hand, Mr. Bekele Gerba’s request to use Mr. Andualem Aragie as the defense witness was denied by the prison administrator, who said Mr. Aragie will not be allowed to appear in court because of his felony conviction with a serious crime.
The four witnesses the defense attorney is seeking their testimony are Mr. Lemma Megerssa, Dr. Abiye Ahmed, Mrs. Chaltu Seni and Abadula Gemeda.
These four witnesses have twice missed court appearances due to scheduling conflicts. However, Mr. Abduljebar Hussein has provided evidence that the four witnesses will appear in court next time. Mr. Hussien said he personally confirmed with the witnesses themselves that they will be appearing in court. Mr. Hussien added that the four witnesses missed the previous two court appearances because they were in a meeting.
According to Ethiopian Satellite Radio and Television (ESAT) sources, the four witnesses are due to appear in court tomorrow December 28, 2017. We have to wait and see if they keep their promise this time around.
At the same time, Mr. Bekele Gerba who recently requested the court to seize PM Hailemariam and force him to testify in court also requested the court to call his second witness Mr. Andualem Aragie to appear in court. However, Mr. Bekele’s request has been denied by Kaliti prison administration, not the court. The prison administration stated Mr. Andualem Aragie is unfit to be a witness because he is serving a long prison term. However, the same court has ordered the prison administration to avail Mr. Aragie for the court hearing on December 28, 2017.
In addition, the judge who recently gave a three-day extension until December 28, 2017, to PM Hailemariam Desalegne to testify in court for the defense said if PM Desalegne is unable to testify during the court proceeding, the judge added he will issue a decision one way or the other.
The same court was listening to other arguments. The committee for the right of Wolkait to remain with the Amhara region are asking the court judge seated to the left (left side judge), Judge Degnew Zeray to recuse himself from the case. Judge Zeray’s insistence on staying on the case and his firm stance on Wolkait as belonging to Tigray region has caused the committee for the right of Wolkait to remain in the Amhara region to protest his appointment to the case and are seeking his removal from the case. The protestors were heard saying “Judge Degnew Zeray has no right to judge us and we do not want him to be seated as our judge neither”. However, their complaints were dismissed.
The other hearing revolves around a person’s name. Mr. Mebratu Getahun belongs to the committee for Wolkaite to remain in the Amhara region. The court insists on addressing him as Tigrean “Mebrehatu Getahun” not the Amharic “Mebratu Getahun” as Mr. Getahun prefers to be addressed. He requested the court to correct his name, however, no one appears to address his concern. To the contrary, Judge Zeray tells Mr. Mebratu that the court will continue on addressing him as Mebrehatu. Previously, the judge seated in the middle (the middle judge) has asked Mr. Mebratu to provide evidence as to the veracity of his name. However, the prosecutor objected on the basis that no prior written evidence was provided to the court and sought another court date to be scheduled for a ruling.
The events of the day highlight the challenges of the Ethiopian court system punctuated by flashes of judicial independence on the one hand and on the other the complete absence thereof. For a government that boasts “accountability to the peoples of Ethiopia and remaining under the rule of law are major principles that cannot be compromised at any cost…” in contrast with the courtroom drama of Judge Zeray, leaves a lot to be desired. The plight of Mr. Bekele Gerba who has been jailed since late 2015 in connection with the protest in Oromia region and has yet to be charged with crimes he allegedly committed shows the absence of an independent judicial system. It remains to be seen what will happen tomorrow in the court of the three judges presiding over Mr. Gerba’s case.
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