By Siyanne Mekonnen @SIYAANNE
Addis Abeba, March 29, 2021 – Oromia police rearrested OLF members Lammi Begna and Dawit Abdeta for the second time after the Oromia Supreme court dismissed charges against them. The two were arraigned at Oromia Supreme Court in the capital Addis Abeba today where the court dropped their charges and ordered for their immediate release. “Lammi and Dawit were walking to the taxi prepared to take them home when they were stopped by security forces dressed like civilians,” said Lammi Gemchu, the interim head of public relations of OLF while explaining that this group of men were later accompanied by armed Oromia police who then took Lami and Dawit to the detention center in Mojo where they have been detained for the last two months.
Lammi Begna and Dawit Abdeta were first arrested in June 2020, according to their lawyer, Gudane Fikadu. “They were detained at different detention centers in Addis Abeba and Oromia Special Zone Surrounding Finfinne.” He added, “Their case was presented at district courts until October when they appeared at Oromia Supreme Court having being charged with terrorism. The Oromia Supreme Court granted them bail early November.” He recalled that they were rearrested on November 20, 2020 when they went to court to attend a hearing related to their case. Gudane explained, “On December 25, 2020, Oromia Supreme court dismissed charges against them and ordered their release. Oromia police did not comply with the ruling and kept Lammi and Dawit at a Sebeta Police station. They were later transferred to Modjo and were told that it was ‘an order from Oromia Police commission’.”
The defense team appealed to Oromia Supreme Court several times and the court finally ordered the commissioner of Oromia police, Ararsa Merdasa to appear in court on March 29, 2021 and explain why court orders from December 25, 2020 weren’t upheld. At today’s hearing the commissioner of Oromia Police neither appeared in court or sent any of his representatives.
The court asked a member of Oromia police who was escorting Lammi and Dawit to the hearing about the absence of the commissioner to which the policeman answered by saying that he knows nothing about the matter and that he was told to escort the detainees only. However, Gudane told Addis Standard that the Oromia Police explained through a letter sent to the Oromia Supreme Court that Commissioner Ararsa was out of town for work. When the court asked for the reason Lammi and Dawit remained in custody despite court orders, the letter by Oromia police commission pointed to appeals made by Oromia’s Attorney General Office to the Federal Supreme Court on March 4, 2021 to repeal Oromia’s Supreme Court ruling. The Federal Supreme court set a court date to hear the regional attorney general appeal appointment which is not due April 20, 2021 so the judges asked if Oromia police were asked by the Federal police to keep Lammi and Dawit under custody and no response was given to the court as representatives of Oromia police were not present. Gudane explained, “The letter sent by Oromia police commission to Oromia supreme court did not show any request made by the federal police to keep them under custody.”
The judges then asked the prosecutor why Lammi and Dawit were detained despite the court’s order to which they answered by denying to have any knowledge of Lammi and Dawit detention. The Oromia Supreme Court then dismissed all charges and ordered the immediate release of Lammi and Dawit. However, Oromia Police rearrested them after they walked out of the court premises and transferred them back to the detention center in Mojo where they were previously kept. “They told us that the order came from above and we couldn’t even argue because they were all armed.” said Gudane Fikadu, Lammi Begna and Dawit Abdeta lawyer. AS