Federal High court Lideta 19 criminal bench today April 6, 2016 found former Gambella region president Okelo Akaye and six other defendants guilty.
Okelo Akaye et.al were charged with terrorism by the federal prosecutor on June 2014. On March 7, 2016 the court verdict was read by Judge Samuel Tadesse. Three judges preside to give verdict and the hearing on March 7th was the third adjournment to read the final decision by the court.
For about an hour long read out verdict Judge Samuel Tadesse mentioned Okello and six others were members of Gambella people liberation movement, and acting to secede Gambella region from the federation through unconstitutional/ violent means. He also mentioned from the charge that they have done fund raising in United State and were organizing terrorist group.
Federal prosecutor mentioned in the charge that Okelo and six other defendants, were having negotiation with the Eritrean government to conduct terrorist act and have met different outlawed Ginbot 7 leaders, including Dr Birhanu Nega( chair for Ginbot 7 movement for justice and freedom) who had been sentenced to death. In addition to that the judges also mentioned that they were also charged recruiting youngsters for terrorism activities and armed struggle. After reading the charge, the judge also read out the entire trial process from the preliminary objection by the defendants to verdict which last nearly two years.
The preliminary objections by the defendants were all denied and all the defendants were plead not guilty, then the prosecutor present its witnesses.
After months of hearing from the witness the court gave verdict that the defendants should defend the case and testimony presented on them. The judge on the read out mentioned that the defendants said they passed through regressive abuse during investigation in “Meakelawi”.
Court claimed after hearing from both sides and sees all the documents presented, ruled that the defendants found guilty.
The judge said prosecutor shows through witiness and documents that the first defendant Okelo in collaboration with different groups was giving leadership with the aim of unconstitutionally seceding Gambela region from the federation. The fist defendant only presented his own testimony; as a result judges said he failed to defend himself by bringing witnesses and other documents.
On a similar note also other defendants in the case claimed to court that they were forced to give their confession under duress in police investigation center but failed to prove their innocence from the charges.
The court said “Defense witnesses were together with the defendants in Crime Investigation Center (Maekelawi), they also were suspects of other terrorism charges therefore they were not reliable and their testimony did not match with the main charge, they failed to defend the charges.”
The court ruled out terrorism charges and said “even though the prosecutor clearly shows the first defendant established the Gambella Peoples Freedom movement and work on the secession of the Gambella region and collaborate with different groups to achieve its mission, the action formulates the disintegration of the country and fails under criminal code.” Finally stating the criminal code 241 the court found all the defendants guilty, said Judge Samuel.
The defendents are Okelo Akway , David Oujulu, Ouchal Opio, Omen Nikoyo, Oujulu cham , Outaka Ouwar and Obang Oubung . Court next hearing will be on April 25, 2016 to hear sentencing suggestions by both parties and rule on sentencing.