Prosecutor witnesses heard against 1st charge on Gurmessa Ayano( Bekele Gerba) et al. (Dec 27/2016 hearing)

Witness gave testimonial against charges instead of detainees 

It is to be recalled that though adjournment was given a month ago to hear witnesses against detainees, it was adjourned again for Dec 27/2016 as witnesses failed to appear within two weeks of the first adjournment. The hearing was deferred to the afternoon secession as the prosecutor claimed that the witnesses were on their way to court. As a result, detainees had their lunch from their families in the court compound.

The prosecutor presented nine witnesses in the afternoon hearing of December 27. Prosecutor claimed that the first two witnesses would testify the involvement of OFC party members in violent activities in Bekie Kelatie town using their party membership as a cover and worked for OLF as put in the first charge. So witnesses would testify on the first charge. Defendants on their part lauded their objection on the issue claiming that the witnesses should be specific in which defendant they witness against not the charge in general.

Judges asked the prosecutor to be specific as a result. The prosecutor on his part claimed that he is not necessarily supposed to specify exactly on which defendant but told the court that the witnesses would focus on the first charge in which the first 13 defendants are charged. Judges agreed then claiming that registering issue on specific defendant is more of a custom not a legal procedure.

The first witness who claimed that he was from Gindeberet Woreda police officer told the court that he was attentively handling the protest case since he had been informed before. Mentioning that the immediate cause of the protest was the Addis Ababa master Plan and that of the Chilmo forest privatization case, he stated that violent protest erupted in Dec 10/2015. According to the witness, the protest that took place from Dec 11-14/2015 in the Bekie Kelatie town was provoked by different slogans including ‘we liberate Oromia’, ‘the incumbent can in no way rule us’, ‘OLF is the right body to administer us’ …etc. The witness reminded that the protesters used to show tied hands as signs and protested against government and police,  further mentioned details such as deaths of three police staff and three civilians, damages on different government offices, as well as vehicles.

He also said that it was proved that some of the protesters had OFC membership ID cards during checking and some of them used to support opposition parties in the 2015 general election. He added that they used to work with “anti-peace forces”.

The witness failed to reply to the questions raised from the lawyers regarding his sources of the above mentioned information. Asked if he remembers any names among those who had OFC membership cards, he said he did not remember anyone. He tried to describe what the ID card of the OFC membership looks like in general. He was also asked if he could identify anyone among the detainees in connection with participation in the protest there in his Woreda. He did not identify anyone in the court room.  The next hearing is adjourned for tomorrow morning.

Following the non-functionality of the recording device, the hearing on Dec 27/2016 was transferred from the 4th bench that can afford to serve a large number of attendants to a smaller room. As a result many attendants were unable to attend the hearing. Bekele Gerba lauded his concern over the change in the room claiming that the reason given was not sounding. Judges assured that they had no other reason than the non functionality of the recording device and promised that the following hearing would go back to the 4th bench.

The court adjourned the hearing of the rest witnesses to Dec 28/2016.

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