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News: Court rejects prosecutor’s request for a closed-door, behind curtains witness hearing against Jawar Mohammed et al

Defedants from left: Bekele Gerba, Jawar Mohammed, Dejene Tafa and Hamza Borana of the oppositon Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC)

By Mahlet fasil @MahletFasil

Addis Abeba, April 06/2021- Federal High Court, Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-Terrorism Bench has today rejected the prosecutor’s request for a closed-door and behind the curtain witness hearing against defendants on Jawar Mohammed’s file.

All of the defendants on the file have appeared at the court to hear the decision on the prosecutors request. During the last hearing, the prosecutor asked the court to have its witness hearing behind curtains and in a closed session, citing witness protection proclamation.

The defense team argued that the hearing of witnesses behind curtains in closed sessions infringes upon the right of the accused to defend themselves and makes the integrinty prosecutors’ witnesses questionable. The defense team also demanded that the name of the 146 prosecutors witnesses be released to the defense team.  

the court rejected the prosecutor’s request on the grounds that the nature of the threat posed to its witnesses was not backed by sufficient evidence

In today’s hearing, the court rejected the prosecutor’s request on the grounds that the nature of the threat posed to its witnesses was not backed by sufficient evidence. The court also cited Article 20 of the constitution which states that everyone charged with an offence is entitled to a public hearing before the court of law. However, the court ruled that the prosecutor’s witness hearing should proceed without disclosing the names of the witnesses. 

The prosecutor requested for additional days before the hearing of witnesses, which was originally scheduled to commence on April 7 and 8; in addition the prosecutor argued that there was need to arrange for the safety of witnesses before the hearing. The defense team argued that the prosecutor was well aware of the schedule and the hearing should go accordingly. After listening to both sides, the judges decided to start the prosecutor’s witness hearing on April 13, 2021 in an open session.

In a related development, the court denied bail to the defendants listed 4th up to 24th on the same file. The judges said that they should remain under custody as the charges brought against the defendants include accusations of causing the loss of life and destruction of property. AS   

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