The Federal High Court Lideta Criminal bench today ruled that witnesses of defendants named in the Bekele Gerba et al high profile case should not appear before court – a decision that infuriated the defendants. The defendants had named Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, Speaker of the House of the People’s Representatives Abadulla Gemeda, Oromia Regional State President Lemma Megersa, Head of the Secretariat of the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO) Abiy Ahmed (PhD), and Legedadi town Mayor Chaltu Sani as their defense witnesses.
The Prime Minister was subpoenaed to affirm the explanation he gave to the House of People’s Representatives in which he stated that the problems observed in the country were the results of the lack of good governance in the country and there was no external force to take the blame for that.
However, in a letter the Office of the Prime Minster sent to the court it was stated that the court can affirm the speech made by the Prime Minister by referring to the media that broadcast his speech. The letter also added that the Prime Minister’s busy schedule deters him from appearing as a witness for the defendants.
Similarly, in a letter that the office of the OPDO wrote to the court, it stated that the officials are busy with other national issues on the days they were supposed to appear before court and they requested for a change of date.
In spite of the willingness from the officials from Oromia, the court ruled that the defendants should not appear saying that “asking the officials to appear and be witnesses for every trivial issue is hindering them from carrying out their responsibilities.”
This ruling from the court angered the defendants and they shouted, “we will not appear again, give a verdict on our case here and now, let it end with us, let us be martyrs so that our children can live, even general Tadesse Birru has died…”
This prompted the court to punish them with six months in jail for contempt of court. The court adjourned to give verdict on their case for January 18, 2018.