The Reporter (Addis Ababa)

Ethiopia: Internal Intel Chief Charged With Power Abuse

A former high-ranking official and head of internal intelligence at the Ethiopian National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Woldeselassie Woldemichael, was charged with abuse of power on Thursday at the Federal High Court 15th criminal bench.

The defendant and four others were charged on 12 counts, nine of which were against Woldeselassie. While charging the former official, prosecutors of the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) said that he had abused the power bestowed upon him by the government.

According to the charge, the defendant used his position to have a book he had written be sponsored by state-owned printing presses, Berhanena Selam Printing Press and Artistic Printers.

The book was entitled "Terrorism in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa", and the defendant is alleged to have used his position to attract investment and buyers, but then failed to deliver any publications to the relevant parties. Additional charges include unpaid tax on the profit he made from the book and renting his house but failing to pay taxes.

The charges went on to say that the defendant had used a government-owned vehicle for the purpose of transporting a close friend, and had used an employee of the NISS to carry out his own personal work, thus preventing this person from doing the job for which they were hired.

According to the charge, the defendant, by using his power asked a businessman, to get him Italian made ceramics worth 65,000 birr.

The defendant, while he was a government employee, earned a monthly salary from 1,600 birr to 6,000 birr from the year, 1991 to February, 2013, however, he managed to build a 3-storey house and has accumulated millions of birr, the charge read. Also charged were the defendant's brother, Zeray Woldemichael, sister, Terhas Woldemichael, and his close friend Dori Kebede, accused of covering up money earned by corruption. According to the charge, Zeray is the legal representative for Woldeselassie, and is therefore an active participant in the criminal charges.

Upon conclusion of the charges the defense lawyers requested bail, pointing out that Terhas has a two-year-old child and there is only a 75-year-old lady able to look after him/her. They added that as the article stated by the FEACC prosecutors does not impose punishment for more than ten years, their clients could be bailed. But the FEACC prosecutors argued that the article stated implies punishment for ten years or more, so pleaded for the court to deny bail. After hearing both sides of the argument, the court denied bail to the defendants and adjourned the case for December 16.

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