News: EPRDF veteran Bereket Simon released five months after due date; family expects his arrival in Addis Abeba today

Bereket Simon delivering policy speech at the 2016 “win-win cooperation with Africa” summit in Germany. Photo: Schiller Institute

Addis Abeba – Bereket Simon, one of the founding members of the former Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM) and a senior official of the EPRDF-led government, is released on parole today from a prison in Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara regional state, after completing his probation, his defense lawyer Hiwot Lilay told Addis Standard.

A close family member who also confirmed the release of Bereket, told Addis Standard that his family members are expecting him to arrive in Addis Abeba today.

According to defense lawyer Hiwot, Bereket should have been released in September on the account of probation in the regional law, which allows a prisoner to be released after serving one third of the jail term, but Bereket hasn’t been given that opportunity.

Bereket Simon was detained in 23 January 2019 along with former TIRET Corporate CEO, Tadesse Kassa, A.K.A. Tinkishu, and subsequently charged in April with corruption surrounding the management of TIRET Corporate, an endowment organization established in 1995 and was owned by then ANDM. Both were charged on suspicion of embezzling more than 2.2 billion birr during their leadership roles at TIRET Corporate, which has since been placed under the Amhara regional state government.

A third co-defendant, businessman Daniel Gizaw, was cleared off all the charges while Bereket and Tadesse continued defending the corruption charges until May 2020, when both were sentenced to six and eight years prison term & 10, 000 & 15, 000 birr fine respectively. Although the they can appeal the sentencing, their appeals were not accepted and Bereket’s released today is based on the completion of the probation period.

Ordeal before detention

Bereket’s trial on corruption charges preceded his fallout with ANDM leadership shortly after Prime Minister Amiy Ahmed assumed the premiership in April 2018. In August of the same year, the ANDM executive committee suspended Bereket and Taddese from the party’s central committee membership. Prior to the suspension, the ANDM said it was unable to continue with members of the party’s leadership who were “not able to lead its reform agenda.”

But accusations against Bereket of being a “TPLF loyalist” already started to surface in June 2018. And in July, a violent standoff at a hotel in Debre Markos city in East Gojam zone of Amhara region, was broken after federal forces were dispatched to disperse a mob that surrounded the hotel. The standoff ensued after rumors circulated alleging that Berket and Migbaru Kebede, the late Attorney General of the Amhara region who had been assassinated a year later in June 2019, were secretly holding discussions with the town’s people. A vehicle thought to have belonged to Bereket was torched, and the hotel had sustained damages before security forces dispersed the mob.

Bereket was not not only a senior EPRDF official who served in different high-level government positions for more than two decades during the EPRDF regime, he was also known to have been the lead ideologue of EPRDF’s political agenda, and a close ally of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. Among the high-level portfolios he held include minister of the Ministry of Information and head the then Government Communications Affairs Office. During the tenure of former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Berket served as the Deputy Director General of the Center for Policy Studies and Research, and Hailemariam’s advisor for four years. AS

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