BY MAHLET FASIL @MAHLETFASIL
Addis Abeba March 22, 2021 -The Federal High Court, Lideta Branch, First Constitutional and Anti-Terrorism Bench held the plea hearing of the remaining five defendants in Jawar Mohammed’s file who are charged in violation of Article 240 of the 1996 Penal Code, violation of the Proclamation No. 1176 /2012 on Terrorism Prevention and Control and violation of the Telecom Fraud Proclamation No. 761/2004.
In the last hearing, Bekele Gerba, the deputy chairman of Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), Hamza Borana, Jawar Mohammed and Shemsedin Taha did not appear in court due to health related matters concerning their recovery from a 40 days long hunger strike, while Alemayehu Gemeda, the ninth defendant on the file didn’t enter a plea because he can’t speak Amharic. All Five defendants pleaded not guilty at today’s hearing.
The first defendant Jawar Mohammed pleaded not guilty to the charges of enticing communal violence, creating religious strife and attempting to overthrow the government through armed struggle. He explained that he is an advocate of religious tolerance and that he never encouraged any form of violence against any other ethnicity while speaking up for the Oromo people. He emphasized the fact that he doesn’t have the personality and the background that would enable him to commit the alleged crimes. “My parents are Muslim and Orthodox, my wife is a protestant, my comrades are followers of diverse religious backgrounds as well. Tolerance is not a mere political view for me. It’s a way of life.”
“MY ACCUSERS KNOW THAT I WAS TRYING TO BRING THE AMHARA AND OROMO PEOPLE TOGETHER. I AM KNOWN FOR ADVOCATING PEACEFUL STRUGGLE. I BROUGHT CHANGE THROUGH PEACEFUL STRUGGLE AND WITHOUT DESTROYING THE COUNTRY. THIS ACCUSATION IS NOT ONLY TO TARNISH MY REPUTATION BUT TO TARNISH THE OROMO STRUGGLE AS WELL. “
“My accusers know that I was trying to bring the Amhara and Oromo people together. I am known for advocating peaceful struggle. I brought change through peaceful struggle and without destroying the country. This accusation is not only to tarnish my reputation but to tarnish the Oromo struggle as well.” Jawar said, recalling the role he and Bekele Gerba played in disarming and reintegrating upto 1000 Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) troops.
The second defendant on the file, Bekele Gerba, told the court he is not guilty by explaining that the charges brought against him are inconsistent with his principles. “I have nothing but respect for everyone, I believe in democracy and dialogue.” Bekele said, recalling the support he gave to the government after the reform. “I only started protesting against it when the government reneged on the promises it made. I learnt about land grabbing by the diaspora and the killing of innocent people everywhere.”
“I ONLY STARTED PROTESTING AGAINST IT WHEN THE GOVERNMENT RENEGED ON THE PROMISES IT MADE. I LEARNT ABOUT LAND GRABBING BY THE DIASPORA AND THE KILLING OF INNOCENT PEOPLE EVERYWHERE.”
Hamza Borana, who is the third defendant on the file, told the court that this is the first time he is being charged with such crimes. “The government arrested me because I am a member of OFC. My parents and siblings are Orthodox Christians. I would never attack the followers of that religion.”
“MY PARENTS AND SIBLINGS ARE ORTHODOX CHRISTIANS. I WOULD NEVER ATTACK THE FOLLOWERS OF THAT RELIGION.”
The thirteenth defendant on the file, Shemsedin Taha pleaded not guilty and recalled the conditions of his arrest. “They said I was a journalist when they arrested me, even though I am not one.” Shemsedin said, adding “I was beaten severely after I was arrested. It is my accusers who should be here facing charges instead of me.” The prosecutor asked the court to have its witness hearing behind curtains. The court was adjourned until April 6, 2021 to pass a decision on the prosecutor’s request. On the other hand, the appointments for the next sessions were set to days between April 7, 8 ,13,14,15,20,21and 22. AS