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News: Supreme court holds hearing on prosecutor’s appeal to have closed door, behind the curtain hearing against Jawar et. al

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

By Mahlet Fasil @MahletFasil

Addis Abeba, April 28, 2021– The Federal Supreme Court, 2nd Appeals Bench held a hearing on the case of the defendants on Jawar Mohamed’s file  to pass a decision on prosecutor’s appeal to overturn a decision made by the Federal High Court, Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-Terrorism Bench to hold prosecutor’s witnesses hearing in open sessions.

After the Federal High Court Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-terrorism Bench ruled that the prosecutor’s witness hearing should proceed in an open session without disclosing the names of the witnesses, the federal prosecutor filed an appeal at the Federal Supreme Court, 2nd Appeals Bench requesting to reverse the decision by the Federal High Court which resulted in the suspension of the witness hearing for two more weeks. The prosecutor disputed the ruling citing witness protection proclamation and appealed at the Supreme Court, 2nd Appeals Bench seeking to reverse the ruling and causing the current delay in witness hearing. The Supreme Court has adjourned the next hearing until April 23, and ordered the defense team to appear and respond to the appeal by the federal prosecutor. The Court also ordered that defendants should follow the hearing via Plasma TV. 

At the hearing on April 23 however, the defendants did not attend the session and the hearing was postponed to April 28, 2021 because one of the presiding judges fell ill. Today the defendants did not attend today’s session through plasma TV as per the court orders. The defense team requested for their clients to be allowed to attend the hearing in person which the court rejected by citing Covid-19 restrictions. The defense team also argued that the prosecutor should be able to protect its witnesses by means inline with witness protection proclamation. 

The prosecutor on its part argued that it is impractical to arm and change the resident of its 146 witnesses. The prosecutor also opposed the lawyers’ request to disclose the name of its witnesses, also reminding the court that this question should be raised at the high court who ruled that the prosecutor’s witness hearing should proceed without disclosing the names of the witnesses. 

After hearing both sides, the judges adjourned the hearing until May 12, 2021 to pass a decision.AS

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