Breaking: Supreme Court Cassation Bench dismisses Attorney General’s appeal to block private hospital for Bekele Gerba, Jawar Mohammed et al

By Mahlet Fasil @mahletfasil

Addis Abeba, March 01/2021 – The Federal Supreme Court Cassation Bench has late this afternoon dismissed the appeal by the Federal Attorney General to block the decision by the Federal High Court granting defendants on Jawar Mohammed file access to private medical facility.

On February 19, the Federal Attorney General (AG) has appealed at the Federal Supreme Court requesting the blockage the medical treatment at Landmark Private Hospital on the grounds of public security. The AG wanted the prisoners to be treated at the Federal Armed Forces.

On February 23, the Supreme Court dismisses Attorney General’s appeal to transfer the prisoners on to government hospital, but ruled they can be treated inside Kality prison. However, the defense team appealed against the Supreme Court’s decision at its Cassation Bench requestinf the decision from the Federal High Court to be respected.

There were two hearings today with regard to the prisoners: the hearing at the Cassation Benhc, which has just been concluded with a ruling in favor of the defense team. Tili Bayissa, member of the defense team, told Addis Standard that that his clients are now set to be transferred to Landmark hospital by latest tomorrow morning.

Today’s parallel hearing was at the Federal High Court, Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-Terrorism Bench, was scheduled for key plea hearing for the 24 defendants in Jawar Mohammed’s file. However the defense team has told judges that their clients’ health was deteriorating due to the ongoing hunger strike which began January 27 and that the defendants cannot enter plea hearing.

Three of them: Bekele Gerba, Jawar Mohammed, and Hamza Adane of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), who are only on water consumption, appeared visibly weak and required assistance to walk. Dejene Tafa, from the party’s leadership, is taking fluids and appeared slightly in better condition. Many of remaining defendants who appeared today were also still recovering from prolonged hunger strikes although they have since suspended the hunger.  

The hearing commenced with the court asking representatives from the Kality prison administration on why the High Court rule on giving access to private hospital to defendants to receive medical treatment was not respected. The lawyers explained that their clients didn’t receive any treatment even after the High court upheld the ruling on two occasions. The defense team complained that the lives of their clients is at risk because of the prison administrations’ failure to honor court orders.

The defendants were initially scheduled to enter a plea on February 4, 2021 but they couldn’t sit through the court because they were weakened by the hunger strike. “The court should prioritize the lives of our clients.” the lawyers asked, to which the prosecutor responded by not objecting if the court adjourned an alternative hearing for defendants to enter plea.

Anteneh Gebeyehu and deputy inspector Diribsa Senbeta were among the team from Kaliti federal prison who took Bekele Gerba to Landmark hospital. Anteneh explained the sequence of events that took place on the day  Bekele Gerba was forcibly taken to Armed forces hospital. He told the judges said that he received a copy of the letter written by the Attorney General Gedion Timothewos on his Telegram instructing him to take Bekele and his medical team to Armed forces hospital while the remaining escorts received the order through a phone call. According to Anteneh the AG sent a letter to the commissioner of Kaliti federal prison, Jemal Obsa, and the photographed copy of it was then sent to him via his Telegram. He admitted that the actions were wrong but said that the prison is directly accountable to the Attorney General office regarding the custody of the defendants, forcing them to dishonor the court’s order. 

Similarly, deputy inspector Diribsa testified that he wasn’t able to verify the existence of any security threats in the immediate vicinity of Landmark hospital as explained by the letter AG’s letter as reason to divert Bekele’s ambulance and the medical team to the Armed Forces Hospital.  The judged have ruled to attach the letter to the file of the case to be seen in the next hearing and adjourned the hearing until March 15, 2020.

Bekele Gerba on his part requested the judges to give his own accounts on the events that took place on February 16, 2021. “We appeared in court because we honor the court. It is true that our car was blocked when we were about to arrive at Landmark Hospital. There is a mafia group who is preventing us from receiving treatment. I may not live long enough to appear in the next hearing but I hold Gedion Timothewos responsible for my life.” Bekele told the judges, adding “I can’t even go to see my ophthalmologist on my regular appointment.”

The judges asked the prison administration why the appointment to see his Ophthalmologist was discontinued when it was not a part of the AG’s appeal to the court. The staffers of Kaliti Federal prison said that it was because Bekele’s doctor has left Waga Eye clinic and that the prison administration is ready to take him to an eye clinic where his doctor is working. AS

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