6 July 2014

Ethiopia: Prosecutors in High Profile Corruption Case Ordered to Amend File Despite Appeal

The testimonies of prosecutors' witnesses will be heard next week, following not guilty pleas

The prosecutors from the Federal Ethics & Anti Corruption Commission (FEACC) have amended the third file on the high profile charge against Melaku Fenta, former director general of the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA), and other co-defendants. This came after the Federal Supreme Court turned down the appeal lodged by prosecutors, who claimed the amendment should not be made.

During the court session, held on Friday July 4, 2014, the prosecutors presented the amended third file, which includes 32 defendants, by breaking it down into 20 separate files, arranging 19 individuals into separate files. The commission's prosecutors also amended nine charge counts on the remaining 14 defendants, including Melaku and his former deputy Gebrewahed Woldegiorgis, whose case will continue under the former file. Furthermore, the prosecutors have identified the witnesses for each count and defendant.

The judge of the 15th criminal bench ruled on the amendments under the three files on May 30, 2014, stating that the charge failed to indicate a specific date and time when the alleged acts of corruption were committed and that individuals with different alleged crimes were charged under the same file. Additionally, witnesses were listed in the same file without indicating for which particular charge they are to testify for.

On June 10, prosecutes came up with the amendments of the two files, but failed to make amendments on the third file, for which they requested and secured an additional 10 days. But, on June 20, 2014, they came up with an order from the Federal Supreme Court instructing the lower court to hold its ruling until June 30, 2014.

A hearing of the appeal was conducted at the Supreme Court on June 26, 2014, with the judges rejecting the prosecutors appellate on Tuesday July 1, 2014. They stated that there was no legal grounds to call for an appeal on the decision of the lower court.

The court will start hearing witnesses on July 8, with all the defendants having pleaded not guilty under the two separate files.

The defendants' attorneys will submit their response to the amended charge through the registrar and the prosecutors will reply to the attorneys' statement through the registrar before the court will rule whether to accept or reject the amendments on July 18, 2014.

The Court has been hearing the charge against 66 defendants in three separate files since September 2013, after the commission arrested the individuals, including senior tax officials and businessmen, in May 2013. The commission filed the charges in September, accusing the defendants by corruption, termination of charges, possession of property not commensurate with official income and possession of arms and ammunition.

Melaku arrived at court after the bench had begun hearing the case, because the car that brought him also collected Ketema Kebede of K.K Plc, who is currently receiving medical treatment at the Zewditu Hospital. He only stayed for about half an hour because his lawyer said that the doctors had to stop the intravenous fluid he was receiving for him to appear. During his stay in court, he was seem panting reputedly.

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