The court and the prisoners
This is a trial observation sent to me by a usual whistle-blower to this site. It is Published as written by the author
(by an observer)
Today was one of the episodes of their appearance at the Kangaroo court of Meles.
At about 9: 10 the detainees started entering the room waiving their hands and smiling at the crowd of family members, supporters, members of the int’l community and friends. The court attendants rose from their seats and greeted their loved ones.
It was an interesting moment for all present to see the detainees excited, as this is the only opportunity they have to see each other, sit together and talk. They had quickly started hugging and greeting each other asking how well the other comrade in arms is doing in their respective cell.
The detainees were particularly happy to see Muluneh Eyoel, Secretary General of CUDP, among themselves as he was held in solitary confinement in another prison called Kerchele since for the last three weeks. He was heard saying he was well.
Some members of the int’l community were heard asking if the detainees are not held in the same prison compound when they see those exchanging greetings.
The female detainees were the last to enter the room and were directed by the guards to sit separately from the male defendants in one of the corners of the room. This was specifically designed to keep the female defendants, particularly Birtukan, the vice chairwoman of CUDP, in absolute incommunicado with the male ones. It was at this moment that the crowd noticed that Birtukan was not present among her cell mates. People started asking why she did not show up and started looking around and wondered if something had happened to her.
Those sitting close to where the detainees were have started to ask the other female detainees about Birtukan, and they said she is kept outside by the police. The situation was not clear until the judges came in and the session begun.
The prosecutors only came in at 10: 25 just five minutes before the judges entered the room. All the court attendants including the detainees rose as instructed by the bailiff. However, when Adil Mohamod, the presiding judge of the Meles Kangaroo court, told all to sit down the detainees remained standing up while all the attendants sat down. The judges and everyone present were wondering as to why the detainees did so. Nevertheless, Adil continued and asked the prison authorities if all the detainees were present and one of the guards responded yes.
The detainees, while still standing up screamed and told the judge that Birtukan is not present and further told the court that since they are jointly charged with her for the same crime, they could benefit from her advice as she is a lawyer. Adil then asked the guard why he said yes, the guard replied that she is outside. Aidl continued asking the guard why she was kept outside and ordered the guard to bring her in. The session was interrupted for a while due to this. At this point Birtukan entered the room through the back entrance and stood on the passage between the benches dividing the men and the women defendants. She tried to sit with the male detainees but the guards did not allow her. Some argument ensued at the scene while Birtukan and the guards were exchanging words. Adil finally asked Birtukan if there was any thing wrong. She told the court that the police did not allow her to sit with the other defendants who are jointly charged with her in a mass charge. She further argued that there is no law in the country which requires female and male defendants who are jointly charged for the same crime to sit separately in court and asked the court why the need for the introduction of this new rule. Adil then allowed her to sit with the male defendants. The detainees then sat down. Those female detainees who are not lawyers and did not want to argue with the police sat separately from the male defendants.
Finally Adil announced that the court was adjourned until today as per article 136 of the criminal procedure code of Ethiopia which requires the prosecution to open its case through presenting its opening statement.
The detainees asked the court to give them permission to present their complaints but the judge told them that they will be heard later.
The judge asked the prosecutor whether or not he is ready to start his case and the prosecutor answered yes. He also asked the court to insert an article of the criminal code which he said is omitted by mistake. But the judge said that insertion in effect amounts to amending the charge and asked if that is what the prosecution is asking for.
Accordingly the court accepted the request for amendment of the charges by the prosecutor in which count number 7 was reduced from actual genocide to an attempt to genocide – Article 27 (1) & 269 (1).
The court ordered the prosecutor to distribute copy of the amended charges and after reading the charge asked the detainees to enter their plea and present their objection to the new charge as amended.
Adil asked Ato Hailu to enter his plea to the new charge. Hailu rose kept silent and sat back as usual. Adil then told the detainees, realizing that they would not say a word, that they could raise their hands and tell the court if they have a different opinion so that he would not appear foolish when everyone ignores him. Yeneneh Mulatu , CUDP senior council member and lawyer challenged the court arguing that the court should follow the procedure and ask each defendant to enter his plea and objection to the charge and further said that it is not procedural for the court to ask all defendants to enter their plea in mass. Adil nodded and accepted the remark by Anteneh, who was a judge himself, and started asking each defendant to enter their plea. However, all of them remained silent and some were seen covering their mouth and eye in protest. Adil then said that although all defendants remained silent when asked to enter their plea, the court have entered a not guilty plea for all the defendants as per the law.
The court asked the prosecutor to submit his case and the prosecutor requested the court’s permission to present its evidences in the following order.
- first , the video evidence
- second, audio
-third, written documents ,
- medical and police reports ,
- and finally witnesses,
This strategy is deliberately designed by the woyane regime not to present its witnesses at this stage in my opinion for the following reasons , they are not sure if they are trained enough , they wanted to see how the political development would look like in the coming weeks and months , they may have not recruited enough false witnesses, they want to see how the reaction of the people is by showing films , they may be a breakthrough which forces Meles to drop the entire trumped up charge either external or internal or both, as we hear some witnesses are already disclosing themselves to the detainees – fyi, there were few witnesses who showed up in prison on Sunday and told the detainees like Birhanu and them that they are 14 of them who are forced by woyane to testify against kinjit leaders, these people appeared to be sympathizers and they are not willing to testify. One of the detainees who were editor of Menilik was asked on Friday (he is Biree’s cell mate) by the prison authorities that if he testifies against the kinjit leaders he will be freed. But he told them got to hell (BTW he is a stunt editor and not actual).
So they are not sure of the direction of the case and in fact we all know that the charges are brought for keeping the leaders in jail long enough and not for conviction.
I also heard that the video tapes are as many as 79 and imagine how long it would take for the show and besides the court is confirming that it is a Kangaroo court as it is adhoc . It is going to hear exclusively the CUDP case.
The prosecutor continued and read his opening statement which is very general than the charge itself. Nothing was specific and the int’l community who were present was also complaining about its generality. They were also provided with translator who is not capable and was leaving a long gap between speeches, not simultaneous so it could not even qualify to be partial translation.
The judge then asked does this mean that there are no witnesses present today. The prosecutor replied that the witnesses will be heard after all the video, audio, docu, evidences are submitted.
The judge finally allowed the detainees to present their complaints.
First , Sisay Agena told the court that the remand court ordered the police to return his Money which is 78,000 Birr and computers which the police confiscated from his house when they he was arrested 6 months ago . He also argued that there is no point in holding his money and property for so long after the investigation is over. He also posed the question to the court saying that if this court is not looking into such issues where else can I get justice?
Muluneh was the second to be given the chance to present his complaint to the court. He introduced himself first, “I am Muluneh Eyoel , and would like to present to the court the suffering I went through and the condition I was in since Megabit 30.
I was made to live incommunicado/solitary confinement at a place called Kerchele _Alem Bekagne, in a dark room, alone. My only crime as I am told by the prison authorities is that I refused to accept the order of the guards who repeatedly warned me to stop communicating in my mother tongue with my family members , friends and relatives who came to visit me form my birth village and who can only speak my mother tongue . I persistently told the guards that it is my constitutional right to speak with a language that I know and if you think I am a threat just because I speak my language, the prison manual states that you could bring a guard or assign another person who can speak the language I am speaking to be present while I communicate with my family in my mother tongue. However, it is unconstitutional to stop me not to speak my own language.
My other crime is, according to the prison authorities that I continued to wear a T- shirt with a word Kinjit written on it and flash the V sign which is Kinjit’s election sign despite the authorities order not to do so. I still told them that it my right to wear the t-shirt I wanted to and it is my party sign. I further told them that why should I be stoped from wearing this t-shirt with the word kinjit written on it as I would not be told so if I were wearinga T-shirt which says “KEHADEG GAR MECHIW ZEMEN BIRUH NEW” people laughed when he said this. The prison manual clearly states the rights and duties of a prisoner and so my right emanates form these two sources namely the constitution and the prison manula.
So he continued , these is how the controversy and argument started between myself and the prison guards as I continuously refused to comply with orders which are unconstitutional and arbitrary.
This same guy said Muluneh , who gave me the prison manual , is the one who tells me that I have no right and I should forget about talking constitution etc. For instance, one day while my visitors came to see me, one of the guards told me not to speak in my mother language and I told him that he should call his boss expecting that he might be in a better position to understand the manual, unfortunately his response was “if it is Muluneh leave him let him speak in his language he is ELEHEGNA. All the detainees once were fed up with the mistreatment of the prison authorities and decided and submitted a written application detailing our complaints to demand explanation as to why they are not following the prison manual and respect our rights as prisoners . Then the guards labeled as a person who is making the prisoners to connive. As a result I was subjected to continuous harassment by the prison police and condemned to my current condition.
I don’t think that a prisoner who is only asking only to exercise his right should suffer and demanding rights should not be considered as conspiring. I should not be condemned to such suffering just because I wear a black T-shirt and be handcuffed for that.
He further told the court that the prison admin should not be allowed to take unconstitutional measures on prisoners who demanded their rights.
In Alem Beqagne where I am held in solitary confinement, am only allowed to get out of the dark room for only 2 hours in 24 hours.
At the first week of my confinement I was only allowed too be visited during the weekend by my sisters and parents and not friends or relatives. After a while I was given access to dim light, and now I am allowed to be visited by friends but still when no body else is outside. I can only be visited not during the regular hour with other prisoners, but when the whole prison compound is deserted so that I can not see anyone and vice versa.
What happened on Miazia 5 and 8 is unbelievable. The prison authorities came and told me that there are visitors who would like to talk to you so you will talk to them. I said It is not my interest to talk to people whom I don’t know and besides I have a right not to talk to people whom I don’t want to . The police told me that this is an instruction from higher authorities and you can not refuse but I said no. Mean while the visitor or guest the police referring to approached me while I was arguing with the authorities that I did not want , the visitor happened to be Ato Solomon Asmelash whom I know who he is and he is an editor of the Pro EPRDF Paper Eftin. He told me who he is but I told him that I know him while he was an E TV journalist and I told him that I don’t want to talk to him or being interviewed. But they suddenly started taking my pictures with out m permission and I shouted at them that it is not legal to take my picture forcefully. I asked for help from the other police who were watching the scene to assist me saying BEHIG AMLAK these are civilians. The police later told me that if they try to interfere they would also face the same fate like I am.
I then run to the toilet and they waited for me adjusting their tripod until I come out and started taking more pictures, then I decided to take off my clothes to discourage them as it the picture they took In that condition would not be useful for them.
Now I am suffering from psychological torture and I am not sleeping well. I am forced to take a sleeping peel. The whole situation caused fear in me. I have a feeling that if these people are allowed to do all these illegal things on me I am hopeless and fearing that they might come and kill me as no body is there as a witness.
I am now seeing a psychiatrist due to all sorts of trauma I went through. Therefore I ask the court to order the police to go back to Kality so that I can even get a witness if something happens to me. I do not want to live in continuous solitary confinement.
All the defendants asked the court to get back their confiscated property by police to especially Camera, Computers etc which can be easily damaged as the battery will be dead.
Nigist who is a single mother, asked the court to be allowed to advise her children as to how to lead their life whom she said are living by themselves.
Prosecutor to present the video evidence starting on Monday, TV, VCR to be ready ( all are invited for this movie show by the Kangaroo court)
The court is now moved to the new building located near Kaliti ( kebele 08 hall)
To investigat the matter about Eyoel’s complaints of forcedpic, etc,
To investigate about the alleged torture on the detainee number 119 on the charge
Police to answer on the complaints by all the detainees about their confiscate property
during their arrest
Adjourned until miazia 30 , Monday ,venue kaliti.
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