7 June 2019

Ethiopia: Judges Rule Five Suspects Accused of Bombing At Pro Abiy Ahmed Rally Should Defend Terrorism Charges

Judges at the Federal High Court Lideta branch Fourth Criminal Bench have today ruled that five suspects arrested in connection with the bombing on June 23/2018 at a rally called to support Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed should defend terrorism charges brought against them by federal prosecutors. They were first charged with terrorism on September 28/2018.

Prosecutors accused the first four of the five defendants namely: Getu Girma, Berhanu Jafar, Tilahun Getachew and Bahiru Tola of being directly involved in planning and executing the bombing in which two people were killed and more than 160 wounded. The fifth defendant, Desalegn Tesfaye is accused of obstruction of justice by failing to report to authorities while knowing about a terrorist act.

The prosecutors further accused the first four defendants of coordinating to set off a second bomb which was thwarted at the small stadium near Mesqel Square.

Initially the police have investigated a total of 18 individuals in two separate counts. The first 10 individuals were investigated after having been suspected of negligence and security laps at the rally; the other eight were investigated having been suspected of direct involvement in the bombing. Among the ten suspected of negligence included former Addis Abeba Police deputy commissioner Girma Kassa and and nine other police officers with different ranks. They have since been allowed to be released on bail.

And among the eight suspected of direct involvement included Tesfaye Urgi, former division head at Ethiopia's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS). Tesfaye's case has since been included with Getachew Assefa, NISS' former director general, who hasn't been arrested despite a court arrest warrant issued against him. This came after the police accused Tesfaye of large scale alleged financial & material support for several other deadly violence that occurred in various parts of the country. Police also alleged finding a bomb during searches at his residence. Tesfaye remains in prison.

The judges in today's hearing said that prosecutors have presented enough material evidences and eye witnesses and have argued the case thoroughly. However, all the defendants contested the court's ruling and told the judges that the police's investigations were conducted in non-transparent ways.

They told the judges that they have no knowledge of the police's actions during material evidence collections, including audio recordings. They have also filed complaints that they were interrogated by the police without having been provided with translators.

The judges overruled all the defendants' complaints and ordered for defendants to begin presenting their defenses against the terrorism charges. The court adjourned the next hearing for July 02 to start hearing defense statements and witnesses. AS

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