News: Oromia police fails to bring four senior OLF leaders to court for habeas corpus hearing

By Natnael Fite @NatieFit

Addis Abeba – Oromia police in Burayu, in Oromia regional state Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne, failed to bring four high-ranking officials of the opposition Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) to a district court for a hearing adjourned to review habeas corpus request by the defense team. The four defendants: Michael Bekele (Boran), Lammi Begna, Dawit Abdeta, and Gada Gabisa who are under Oromia police custody, were therefore unable to attending the hearing, according to the team of lawyers who spoke to Addis Standard.

According to the lawyers’ team, the request was made on the 13 June this year. Subsequently, the district court had ordered the police to present the defendants on Wednesday 22 June, to view their request, however, the police did not bring the aforementioned defendants into court.

The court ordered, once again, the Burayu city police to present the defendants for the next session. The court also ruled that the Public Prosecutor of the Oromia Supreme Court and Oromia Police Commission should explain why the individuals are incarcerated till this day and what charges they have against them, if any, at a hearing adjourned until the o4 July, 2022.

Previously, prosecutors closed the case on Michael Bekele (Boran) on the ground that there were no charges against him for nearly two years, when he remains under police custody, the defense team said. Before two weeks, Michael was severely ill and was taken to the Federal Police Hospital and Lagahar Hospital having not received adequate treatment, his family told Addis Standard that his illness has since worsened. His sister, Silge Bekele, told Addis Standard that Michael was taken to hospital where there was no sign of improvement so he was returned to the police station where he is currently held.

The other two detainees, Lammi Begna and Dawit Abdata were arrested around the end of June 2020, following the assassination of prominent Oromo artist, Hachalu Hundessa. They were following their cases at the district court. After reviewing their cases, the Oromia Supreme Court dismissed the terrorism charges they were facing and ordered their release on bail as far back as November last year. However, on the 20 November, security forces rearrested them shortly after their release. On 25 December, for the second time, the Oromia Supreme Court ordered the police to free them, but instead they were taken to the Sabata Police station and were detained. The police continued to detain them at different places.

The fourth defendant, Gada Gabisa, remained in police custody despite no charges brought against him, and no investigation conducted.

Last week Lami Begna’s brother, student Hundaol Begna, was killed by government security forces in the city of Naqamte. Speaking to Addis Standard, Firaol Begna, his brother, said that Hundaol was a 12th-grade student and lived in Naqamte city by renting a house at the time he was killed by government security forces on the night of 17 June. “The information we have is that on Friday, starting from 11 O’clock (local time), there was gunfire in Naqamte. There are other injured people, but he was the only one killed’’, he said.

The fourth defendant, Gada Gabisa, remained in police custody despite no charges brought against him, and no investigation conducted. He too has not received adequate medical treatment for the illness he continued to suffer from while in detention, Addis Standard learned.

In May this year, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) conducted a review on the imprisoned high-ranking OLF officials and published its findings. The rights body concludes that many of the OLF leaders and members were “imprisoned illegally.” The commission’s work reviewed those granted bail, those who had their cases closed, those without any charges, and those who the public prosecutor has not filed any charges against. “However, there have been individuals imprisoned for months all the way to two years, and others would have experienced bad treatment and even been beaten during their stay which resulted in bodily harm and health problems.,” and said “those illegally imprisoned should be released immediately.” AS

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