Following the appointment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) to the leadership of the ruling Front the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), stories originating from Ethiopia has dominated global news headlines, and this week was no different in this regard, as the detention of senior officials of the ill-fated Metal and Engineering Corporation (MetEC) and the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) made news headlines over the weekend.
On Monday, Attorney General (AG) Birhanu Tsegaye revealed the results of his investigation concerning the two institutions and the individuals who were leading them at various levels. According to the AG, his Office combed through piles of evidence and interviews during the past five months to uncover mountain of evidence indicating massive human rights violation and grand corruptions, in which high ranking officials of the two institutions are directly implicated.
Berhanu said the suspects have committed gross violation of human rights, including torture, rape and other barbaric acts using seven ghost prisons in the capital and other detention sites in different parts of the country.
Speaking about the investigation on MetEC, the AG alleged 37 billion birr has been misused or misappropriated by the Corporation under the auspices of procurement and investment in the past six years.
The Corporation also allegedly committed both foreign and domestic purchases without following the proper tender procedure. Among the purchases were two old ships and fleet of smaller aircrafts. Berhanu also said MetEC purchased five different aircrafts which were 50 years old and are no more airworthy. Furthermore, the whereabouts of one of the airplanes is not yet known, according to AG.
In this regard, some 63 suspects were placed under arrest on Saturday an alleged gross human rights violation and grand corruption committed in connection to MetEC and NISS during the past two decades. Out of the 36, the 27 are implicated in the grand corruption scandal at MetEC, while the remaining 10 were from the fearsome Intel Agency.
As the week progressed, the list of detained officials got longer and incorporated Kinfe Dagnew (Major. Gen), former Director General of MetEC. He was reportedly arrested in Humera Tigray by the special police force of the Tigray Regional State on Tuesday. Apparently, he was apprehended Monday evening and transferred to the capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday. Kinfe made it to court on Wednesday during which he requested for the government for the provision of legal defense since he is living on his pension of 4000 birr per month.
However, the 10th Criminal Bench of Federal High Court on Thursday rejected Kinfe’s plea for the provision of legal defense by the government on the grounds that the Police has presented evidence indicating money transaction amounting 100, 000 birr from his account as recently October 24 and 29, 2018.
And hence the court ruled the suspect is able to hire his own legal defense team and adjourned the next hearing to November 19, 2018.
Towards the end of the week, the list of the detainees got even longer following the arrested of the former Deputy Head NISS and Commissioner General of the Federal Police for a short while, Yared Zerihun. Yared was arrested over human rights abuse and corruption on Thursday. The former deputy Intel chief was arrested in Dukem, some 30 km south of Addis Ababa, and appeared before court On Friday. However, due to the lengthy charge reading the session was adjourned for upcoming Tuesday.
The charge which was read to Yared said that he was guilty of various gross human rights violations including executing an order from the former head of NISS and detaining individuals in the most inhumane situations. Yared was charged with authorizing the various interrogation technics including setting swarm of ants on detainees, severe beating and torture and for his involvement in illegal human trafficking and collecting millions of birr from the illicit operation.
Following the detention of the alleged individuals the PM in his statement on Thursday confirmed the commitment of the government to pursue those who have not yet been arrested and bring them before a court of law.