24 April 2019

Ethiopia: Police to Send Evidence for Forensic Analysis Out of Ethiopia As Court Denies Bail for Suspect in Jail in Connection With Arrest of an Ethiopian in China

The police investigating Simiret Khasay and Solomon Tsegaye, two suspects jailed on allegations of giving bottles of cocaine to China bound Nazrawit Abera, said they were preparing to send the evidence taken upon the detention of Simiret and Solomon for forensic analysis outside of Ethiopia.

At a hearing held on April 23, the police told judges at the Federal First Instance Court Arada branch in Addis Abeba that partial results of forensic analysis on the evidence show "unknown substance", necessitating the need for outside forensic analysis, while some part of the evidence shows no trace of drug substance.

The case involves Simiret Kahsay, a former Ethiopian Airlines hostess, and Solomon Tsegaye, who are accused of having tricked Nazrawit, a career engineer, by giving her cocaine on shampoo bottles for smuggling into China. Since late December 2018, Nazrawit is detained in China on suspicion of smuggling the cocaine. No formal charges have been brought against her, Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said as it promised to follow the case closely.

At a court appearance on Friday, April 12, Simiret denied all the accusations. "She didn't get them from me," Simiret told the court.

Update: Police arrested Simret Kahsay (pic), who is suspected of handing Nazrawit Abera cocaine in shampoo bottles, which led to Nazrawit's detention in #China. Simret was detained once & released on bail. She is now detained with another suspect, Solomn Tsegaye, EBC reported. pic.twitter.com/amaVYLfNkc

- Addis Standard (@addisstandard) April 9, 2019

Simiret, 27, and Solomon were arrested in Addis Abeba on April 9 and have since appeared in court twice. During their court appearance on April 23, Solomon also denied wrongdoing and said the evidence taken from his residence and are under police custody were proteins that "I use for sports activities."

Despite the denial by both suspects the judges rejected defense lawyer's request for bail. On April 12, the police were given two weeks to finalize examining the evidence in the form of shampoo bottles that the police say link the two to the crime.

In what is quickly becoming one of the most scrutinized alleged criminal cases in recent times, Simret's arrest came after public outcry and online campaign over the plight of Nazrawit Abera in China. Simiret told the court that her arrest was influenced by social media campaigns.

The office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who is currently in China attending China's Belt and Road Initiative summit, said today that PM Abiy has "expressed his concern on the detainment of the young female engineer Nazrawit Abera." Ambassador Teshome Toga, Ethiopia's Ambassador to China, said yesterday that Ethiopian envoys have visited Nazrawit "four times" since her arrest.

During her first court appearance on April 12, Simret's lawyer told the judges that his client was being made a scapegoat to calm public fury. However, the Ethiopian Attorney General's office told state media that preliminary investigations revealed that the bottles of cocaine found in Nazrawit's luggage were obtained by Simret from Brazil, where she has previously traveled to and established links during her tenure as a flight hostess.

Simret Kahsay and Solomon Tsegaye's next hearing is adjourned for 26th of April. AS

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