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MP, Councilmen facing terrorism charges appear before court in a closed hearing

Christian Tadele, Yohannes Buayalew and 50 other individuals were charged with terrorism offenses (Photo: Social Media)

Addis Abeba – Member of Parliament Christian Tadele, Amhara Regional Council member Yohannes Buyalew, Addis Abeba City Council member Kassa Teshager, and co-defendants facing terrorism charges were presented in a closed hearing at the Federal High Court’s Lideta branch on Friday. 

Of the 52 individuals facing terrorism charges, 14 were presented before the Federal High Court in Lideta yesterday, though their initial court date was scheduled for April 5th, according to family members who spoke to Addis Standard.

One relative of defendant Christian Tadele stated that neither Christian nor his lawyers were aware of the rescheduled hearing. “When we delivered his meal at noon, they were unaware of any court appearance that day. After we left, we heard reports they were taken to court around 2:00 PM,” the family member said.

The relative further alleged the defendants had not received the formal charges against them nor been able to consult their legal counsel prior to the proceedings. The immunity of Christian Tadele, who held a seat in Parliament since 2021 was revoked on 14 March 2024, seven months after his arrest on 04 August 2023.

Another family member of defendant Yohannes Buayalew told Addis Standard that they were denied entry to the courtroom, with the hearing conducted in a closed session.

On Thursday, state media outlets reported that Christian Tadele, Yohannes Buyalew and 50 other individuals were charged with terrorism offenses by the Ministry of Justice’s Directorate General of Organized and Transboundary Crime Affairs.

According to the reports, the charges claim the defendants “aimed to impose their political aims through the use of force.” The reports state the defendants had “assembled since 2022 with the objective of establishing the Amhara Fano Unity Council.”

While noting the “Amhara nation holds ownership of the country along with other Ethiopian nationalities and peoples,” the reports allege the defendants believed “the country had been usurped from Amhara, its lands unlawfully taken, with the country no longer governed according to Amhara traditions and principles alone.” 

The defendants are accused of seeking to reclaim what they viewed as “Amhara lands” through military means with the intent that Ethiopia must be ruled exclusively by “Amhara ideals.”

The reports further indicate the defendants are alleged to be the primary perpetrators who directly and indirectly participated through “organizing, procuring arms, commanding, coordinating logistics for a terrorist group.” The reports state the defendants “acted as propagandists for a terrorist group, launching attacks on defense and security forces, as well as peaceful citizens, with the aim of violently overthrowing the government.”

The reports list over 1,100 deaths among security personnel and civilians resulting from the alleged attacks, as well as more than 600 serious and minor injuries.

Lawyer Solomon Gezahegn, representing Christian, Yohannes and others, confirmed to Addis Standard that his clients did appear before the court. Solomon stated that the lawyers appealed to the court, arguing that since they had not had the opportunity to meet with their clients prior to the hearing, they could not properly defend them, adding that the court granted their request to postpone the session until the previously scheduled date of April 5.

During the proceedings, the public prosecutor requested transferring the defendants from  Federal Police Commission Crime Investigation Bureau prison facilities due to overcrowding concerns. 

However, Lawyer Solomon told Addis standard that they  objected to this proposed transfer request as untimely. The court ultimately declined the prosecution’s request to relocate the defendants at this stage.

Solomon said his clients also presented complaints regarding human rights issues. Representing those charged, Yohannes Buayalew stated their grievances, which included being detained for 80 days in a dark room while in Awash Arba, and currently being held in a basement room at the Federal Police Commission in Addis Ababa, with five people per cell.

Moreover, Yohannes Buayalew informed the judge that he and 10 other defendants were only allowed to meet with their families for 10 minutes and were not permitted to meet with their lawyers or religious advisors. After hearing the complaints, the lawyer said the judge approved them and ordered corrective measures to be taken.

The defendants were arrested under the state of emergency declared in the Amhara region, suspected of “carrying out various illegal activities” in cities and “providing logistical and financial support by taking a duty from the armed group”. AS

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