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Court martial slashes prison terms for mutineer commandos

Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) who have been sentenced to imprisonment for marching in arms to the Office of the Prime Minister in October 10, 2018, got their sentences slashed by the appellate Military Court, The Reporter has learnt. These members of the elite commando unit of the ENDF were sentenced from 14 to five years in prison for the crime they were convicted of, which is now slashed by the appellate court to 10 years maximum imprisonment. Other convicts have also seen reductions of sentences accordingly, while the minimum sentence remained at five years.

Apparently, the commandos were on a mission to control security situation which had escalated around Burayu town of Oromia regional state in the month of September 2018, before they marched on PM Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) office in October 2018 saying that they wanted to talk to their PM, given his frequent talks to different parts of the community at the time.

The PM was on a cabinet meeting when the Commandos reached the vicinity of his Office and the deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen talked to them until the PM was informed about the situation to arrive at the place later. The members were said to have refused to disarm before going for talks with the PM and his deputy reasoning that he was their beloved leader. Then they had talks with the PM and did pushups, during which time the PM said their march was done with a good intention and aimed at talking to him and raising their concerns of hard life and low salary.

After leaving the Office of the Prime Minister, they had a meeting with the chief of staff Seare Mekonnen (Gen.) and the then Minister of Defense Motuma Mekassa following which they issued a common statement admitting to their mistakes. This statement was later used to file criminal charges up on 66 of the more than 200 who participated in the act. The remaining members were punished by administrative measures. The ones sentenced to imprisonment were charged of participating in military coup.  

The hearing of their cases was carried out in front of more than 500 members of the military while the Defense TV recorded the whole proceeding. The convicts were represented by Defense Attorney at the martial court. The plan for the appeal was indicated during a press conference given at the time.

Hearing the appeal on the sentences and the criminal ruling, the Martial Appellate Court cut the maximum sentence from 14 years to 10 years and the rest of the convicts received reductions in their sentences. But, the minimum sentence of five years remained the same. The appeal was heard at Tatek prison facility after which the convicts were moved to Kilinto, Shewa Robit and other prison facilities.

According to the Defense Proclamation, any member of the military sentenced to two and more years of imprisonment are not allowed to return to the military unless they have irreplaceable role for the military for which special administrative considerations will be made. Hence, the chance of these convicts return to the military is less probable.