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News Update: Fed Court once again upholds decision for prisoners in hunger strike to get medical care at private hospital

All the four members of the opposition OFC, except for Professor Merera Gudina (2nd from left) are currently on hunger strike.

By Siyanne Mekonnen @siyaanne 

Addis Abeba, February 17, 2021 – A letter from the Federal High Court and reviewed by Addis Standard stated that judges have once again upheld their earlier decision which ruled prisoners on Jawar Mohammed case, who are on hunger strike since January 27, are entitled to receive medical treatment at a private hospital.

The prisoners have continued their hunger and the health condition of Bekele Gerba, Deputy Chairman of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) is said to be worsening.

On February 16, Bekele, who has been advised to be treated at a hospital since Friday February 12, was finally granted the right to be treated at a private hospital of his choice. However, while he was headed to Landmark hospital yesterday, he and his medical team were forcibly taken  to the Armed Forces Hospital commonly known as Torhailoch hospital.

Bekele refused to be treated at Torhailoch, a government hospital, “fearing for his life” which led to hours long tense standoff at the Hospital premises, according to lawyers and family members who spoke to Addis Standrad. Security forces have held the team of medical professionals, including lead private physician Dr. Illili Jamal, incommunicado in the premises of Torhailoch hospital for at least three hours before Bekele was taken back to Kaliti federal prison “without receiving treatment.”

Dr. Ilili told Addis Standard today that the medical team and Bekele “were both taken to Torhailoch against our wills. I asked for my phone before we left the prison compound but I was not allowed,” she said, “We asked to be taken back to the prison if we weren’t going to Landmark hospital but that also was denied. We weren’t allowed to make phone calls either” she said of the hours spent at the Torhailoch Hospital premises.

Security forces who accompanied them initially told the team of medical professionals and lawyers that the convoy taking Bekele to the Landmark Hospital was diverted to Torhailoch hospital at the “order from an unspecified high official” almost before reaching Landmark hospital.

Dr. Illili says the armed escort might have received their orders after Bekele and the rest of them left Kaliti prison. Later on, one of the prison administration security member showed “me a letter to convince us to proceed with the treatment at Torhailoch hospital. The letter was signed by Gedion Timotiwos, the Attorney General,”she said. It stated that the AG’s office was requesting the court to change its ruling allowing prisoners to get treated at private hospitals, and citing that adequate medical care to prisoners should be provided at the government’s responsibility, according to Dr. Illili.

As Bekele was taken back to Kality without receiving the medical treatment he needed, the lawyers have once again appealed at the court this morning, securing yet another letter upholding the judges’ earlier decision.

Lawyers told Addis Standard that they expect Bekele to be taken to Landmark Hospital tomorrow. AS



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