By Mahlet fasil @MahletFasil
Addis Abeba March 27, 2021 – The Federal first instance court, Arada Bench, yesterday rejected a request by the defense team of former and current senior TPLF officials in Abraha Tekeste’s file for the replacement of the judge presiding over the file. The defense team presented an argument that suggested that the judge could have been influenced after following the preliminary investigations for the past 4 months.
On March 22, 2021 the defendants arraigned in court for the commencement of witness hearing. On that day the defense team complained about not being able to consult with their clients before witness hearing and the lack of implementation of previous court orders about the medical treatment of Sebhat Nega and Ambassador Abay Woldu. The court ordered that the two defendants receive medical treatment at a private hospital of their choosing. The defendants also asked for more days for family visitation outside of weekends. The judges gave an alternative appointment for the following day.
Earlier in March, the police handed over the preliminary investigation of 20 defendants to the federal prosecutors who then charged them with terrorism on the bases of attempts to dismantle the constitutional order. The defendants were accused of a range of crimes related to the recent conflict in Tigray and other alleged crimes committed during TPLF’s stay in power. Veteran TPLF members Sebhat Nega and Kidusan Nega were accused of various ways of contribution to the conflict in Tigray while Tekleweyni Assefa, Ambassador Abadi Zemu, Tewodros Hagos (PhD) and Gebremedhin Tewolde were accused of preparing three months worth food stocks for Tigray Defense Forces (TDF), alongside Tekleweyni who was accused of embezzling 50 million ETB from the Endowment Fund for the Rehabilitation of Tigray (EFFORT). Other defendants who were accused of participating in the Maikadra massacre were also added to the file making the total number of defendants 42.
In the court hearing that took place on March 23, 2021, the defendants requested to be tried in a court in Tigray region. The prosecutor argued that the crimes that the defendants are accused of took place at several places across the country, recalling the rocket attacks in Bahir Dar and Gondar as well as the alleged crimes by Addisalem Balema while he was a member of the executive committee of TPLF.
In addition to their request to be tried at a court in Tigray region, the defendants requested the replacement of the judge. The reason behind this request is that the same judge should not continue during witness hearing as he could have been influenced while following the preliminary investigations for the past 4 months. The defendants also requested for their cases to be seen at Lideta Federal High Court, to allow for a safer accommodation for all of the attendants of the court in light of Covid-19.
On March 26, Nine out of the 42 defendants including Solomon Kidane (PhD), Ambassador Abadi Zemu , Ambassador Abay Woldu and Mulu Gebre Egziaber, former federal minister of transport did not appear in court due to worsening health conditions. The court passed decisions on the requests filed by the defendants. As for shifting the court hearing to a bigger hall, the court explained that it is an administrative procedure that is not under the judges mandate. And the replacement of the judge was also not to be decided by this court, the judges explained, unless the defendants file a complaint to another court. The prosecutor’s witness hearing will proceed once the issue when the issue of the replacement of the judge is settled by another judge. AS