22 defendants including Bekele Gerba (Deputy Chair for Oromo Federalist congress party, OFC) have been arrested and charged with Anti-terrorism proclamation following the public protest in Oromia region; all their Preliminary objections to the charge are rejected by the court.
The Federal High court Lideta 4th bench on the trial in the afternoon of Aug 05, 2016 read out the settlement for the objections. All the objections of the defendants are rejected. One of the objections for the charge is about the judicial jurisdiction of the high court. The federal prosecutor stated that the crimes are committed in Oromia region and the defendants objected it every offence shall be tried by the court within the local limits of whose jurisdiction it was committed in the criminal procedure. But the court quoted the Article 32 of Anti-Terrorism proclamation which says ‘The Federal High Court and the Federal Supreme Court shall have jurisdiction over cases presented in accordance this proclamation’ to reject it.
For the objection of the defendants about the clarity of the charge and also whether it is prepared following the procedure or not, the court found the charge is filed according to the procedure. About the capacity of suspects in the offence the judges pledged to review it at the time of evidence and judgment.
One of the points included in the objection of the defendants is while the government reaches to a consensus and made an apology for the lack of good governance which instigates the public protest in Oromia region there is no case to prosecute them. The court rejected this one because the prosecutor mentioned about “. . . Damaging property and committing homicides . . .” it must be tried by law. The court stated on the settlement all the remaining objections are also rejected.
“This constitution will not be discarded with three judges, it is also mine, I have a responsibility to protect it” Bekele Gerba
The defendants protest following the settlement
After the court read out the settlement of the objection the defendants raised their hands to speak their viewpoint. But the court said “There is no time, we can’t hear you right now” in its aim to deny them a chance to speak. Ato Bekele Gerba stood up and said
“We are citizens, we are charged with High crime. You shouldn’t cover-up and Pass over it. If the court forbid us to speak who will permit us? We should speak and you have to listen. If you don’t listen to us, you can send your decision to prison because our appearance here is meaningless.”
Then the court allowed him to speak
Bekele Gerba speaks about his disagreement on the courts rejection verdict of the preliminary objection specifically about the jurisdiction of the current court to see the case.
“The constitution stated The Federal High Court must establish regional Courts. But the settlement of the objection didn’t consider this. This constitution will not be discarded with three judges, the constitution is also mine, I have a responsibility to protect it. I will implore the whole people of Ethiopia to protect it”
“Federal High Courts specified in the constitution to be established in the regional states are not realized. If not, the Federal High Court must delegate the State courts. This hasn’t happened. This is abrogating the power of regional states. For me what you have done today is not different from the historical mistake of ending the Eritrean federation. This constitution is written by blood.” said and pointed a pocket size FDRE Constitution on his hand to the judges.
Dejene Tafa added
“Your decision deprived regional states power; we are fighting for rule of law, for that I am calling the Oromo people to stand on our side.”
The presiding judge, Judge Tadele Tegegn warned “We are hearing complaint; it is not allowed sending a message”
Bekele Gerba replied to the judge “your decision is political”. Even though other defendants tried to get chances to speak their grievances and questions the court wasn’t willing to allow them.
The trial came to an end after giving an adjournment to hear the Plea of accused for Aug 11, 2016. Then the defendants leave the court room in the company of songs of freedom in Afaan Oromo. The protest sung, “While the people are dying and ill-treated, how we can keep silent? . . . We will struggle, we won’t keep silence. . .” was roared till they get into the prison van.