Ethiopia: Ex-Somali Region President Says He Drops His Defense Team, Accuses Federal Court of Bias

Ex-Somali region president Abdi Muhamud Omer a.k.a Abdi Iley, told judges at the federal high court 4th criminal bench today that he is no longer continuing his trial with his defense team because the judges and prosecutors handling his trial were not allowing his defense team present their properly.

Abdi Iley said this at a hearing today adjourned to hear corrected charges after the judges told prosecutors during the hearing held on July 24 to correct the charges against Abdi Iley, the first defendant, and Zemzem Hassen, the 43rd defendant in which prosecutors were told to further explain the criminal charges against Abdi Iley on whether the charges included accusation of "attempts to overthrow constitutional order." On the case of the Zemzem, the court told prosecutors to correct the gender to female from what was mentioned as male.

The judges also ordered prosecutors to hand over copies of evidence both the the court and the defense team at the same hearing on July 24 and adjourned the next hearing for today.

However, Abdi Iley told judges today that his defense team were not able to discharge their responsibilities due to the court's bias by refusing to hear complaints. "I have lost trust in this court," he told the judges, "and I don't want to continue with my defense team because it makes no difference. We come hear to hear the judges and the prosecutors and not to be heard," he said.

Abdi Iley appeared in the court under heavy presence of security forces drawn from members of federal army, members of federal police and members of prison police. He complained that false news reports about him were straining his freedom leading to him being heavily guarded.

#Ethiopia: Police arrested a group of people accused of attempts to help ex-#Somali region Pres. Abdi Mohamed Omar escape prison.They've allegedly rented a house near #Qality prison where he is held while undergoing trial. Several weapons were also seized https://t.co/yjmwfN9jWB pic.twitter.com/Ym4LH5t9AI

- Addis Standard (@addisstandard) August 7, 2019

The defense team told the judges that their client's life was facing severe scrutiny due to false reporting and complained about a news report on the Reporter Newspaper on allegations of assisted escape from prison. Prison authorities have denied the incident ever happened but the Newspaper neither removed the article, nor published clarification. Responding to the complains from the defense team about the article, the judges said the defense team can submit their complaints in writing to the court.

The judges have adjourned the next hearing on August 19 to hear the defense statement. However Abdi Iley said that he will neither defend himself, nor continue with his defense team. "I will only come to hear what the judges and the prosecutors have to say," he said.

Background

On January 25, the Attorney General's office revealed that the August violence resulted in the killings of 58 people while 266 were injured. the report by the AG also revealed a gruesome details which were previously unreported, including the discovery of a mass grave where the remains of 42 of the victims was found. Eight more bodies were discovered inside the premises of St. Michael Church in Jigjiga city. The report also said ten women were raped in just a span of three days but added there could be more unreported cases of rapes. And properties worth about 421 million birr were also vandalized in the violence. AS

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