Ethiopia: Fed. Court Rejects TPLF Officials' Requests for Change of Trial Venue to Tigray & Replacement of Presiding Judge

Addis Abeba — The 42 defendants on Abreha Tekeste's file, appeared at Federal first instance court, Arada Bench. The senior TPLF officials including Veteran TPLF members Sebhat Nega, Kidusan Nega, Ambassador Abadi Zemu and others were arraigned in court today to hear the court's decision on requests they have made at their previous hearings. The requests to be tried at a court in Tigray region and to replace the judge presiding over the case were rejected by the court. However, the court granted one of the requests which was to change venue to allow for safer accommodation for all of the attendants.

At the last hearing, the defendants requested the replacement of the judge arguing that he could be influenced as he has been following the preliminary investigations for the past 4 months of trial. It was decided that the defendants are to file a complaint to another judge at the last hearing. The request was presented to another judge today where the new judge denied the request. The alternative judge explained to defendants that the presiding judge following their case is not influenced and ruled that he continues being the presiding judge. The defendants' request to be tried at a court in the Tigray region was rejected due to the unfolding security situation in the region. The court reminded defendants that their case is a federal case and is under the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

However, defendants' request for change of venue to be Lideta Federal High Court, presenting the argument that such change would allow for a safer accommodation for all of the attendees of their hearing and will implement Covid-19 prevention measures was granted. The request was reviewed and the judge ruled in the favor of the defendants but limited the change of venue to a bigger hall in the premises of Federal first instance court, Arada Bench.

The court ruled today that prosecutors will present their witnesses and the hearings will proceed as scheduled now that the issue of the replacement of the judge is settled. Another request by the defense team to reveal the names of the witnesses was also rejected. The court ruled in favor of the prosecutor who argued that revealing the identities of the witnesses poses a threat to their security. The testimonies of half of the prosecutors' 50 witnesses will be heard in a closed session on April 7, 2021. AS

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