17 February 2013

Ethiopia: High Court Judge Suspect in Receiving Bribe

A judge at the Federal First Instant Court was arrested two weeks ago by investigators at the Federal Ethics & Anticorruption Commission, for allegedly receiving a bribe and pledging to issue judgment in favour of one of the parties in a civil suit, court documents disclosed.

The nature of the civil suit remains undisclosed, though.

Zerihun Assefa, appeared before judges at the Federal High Court on February 04, 2013, accused of attempting to receive 241,000 Br bribe from Tibebe Melaku. Prospectors claim that the judge was caught red handed while taking bribes from Tibebe, a plaintiff in a civil suit where the judge presides.

They also claim Zerihun previously accepted 9,000 Br from the plaintiff as part of a half a million Birr installment. The deal, allegedly, was for the plaintiff to pay half of this amount after the case was ruled in his favour, claim Commission prosecutors.

The case was brought to a panel of three judges at the Federal High Court: second criminal bench Aboy Guade, Yirga Aycheh and Berihun Teklebrehan, on Chad St, where prospectors and defence lawyers fought over the right of bail. Bereket Bezabih, a prosecutor of the Commission, filed a written request to the panel on February 05, in a bid to secure a 14-day custody to proceed with the investigation, a motion challenged by defense lawyer, Sisay Lemlem.

Sisay protested the request on the ground that the suspect is not in a position to destroy evidence, thus should be granted release against bond. The prospector told the judges he would like to have more time to gather material evidence.

Although judges granted prosecutors eight days, they could only produce a list of witnesses and material evidence. They appealed for judges to grant them 14 additional days to investigate telephone records, court documents show.

The defence lawyer objected on the grounds that the first eight days of custody were sufficient for prosecutors to produce their evidence and appealed for the release of his client, who he said suffers from kidney and back illness. Judges nonetheless granted investigators custody right for an additional six days.

Judges have adjourned the case for February 19, 2013.

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