The case of the five defendants on the file of Eskinder Nega, the founder of the Balderas for Real Democracy opposition party, was brought before the Federal Court of Justice, 2nd appellate instance, this morning for a decision on the prosecutor’s appeal to set aside a decision made to be met by the Federal Court of Justice, the Lideta department, the first bank for the constitution and the fight against terrorism, in order to hear the prosecutor’s witnesses in open sessions Four of the defendants, who are in police custody, attended the hearing on plasma TV. The trial was set up on April 6, 2021 to hear the ruling on the prosecutor’s appeal to overturn a ruling by The Federal Supreme Court, Lideta Department, the first Constitutional and Counter-Terrorism Bank , in which the prosecutor’s witnesses were heard in an open session, were not carried out because neither the defendants nor the prosecutors appeared in court. The number of presiding judges assigned to the file was also incomplete.
At today’s hearing, the prosecutor asked 16 of the witnesses to testify in a closed session and the remaining five to testify behind curtains. The prosecutor explained the need to hide the identity of his witnesses and said that one of his witnesses received threats during the preliminary hearing. The prosecutor told the court that the hearing of the witnesses could be followed by audio from the media and observers. For their part, the defense team argued that concealing the identity of the prosecutor’s witness would prevent them from knowing if there were any witnesses who were angry with their clients. The lawyers also reminded the court that the prosecutor did not provide evidence of the said threat his witness received. Eskinder Nega told the court that this practice in Ethiopia applies to cases of sexual assault involving women and children to which the prosecutor has responded, explaining common practice abroad. The second defendant on the file, Sentayehu Chekol, said, “We know that we were arrested on government orders. If the court decides to overturn the previous ruling, claims that the judicial system will be reformed are all lies. “
The lawyers also suggested that the witnesses could be protected by changing residents and arming them for self-protection. The prosecutor said the witnesses were officials in Addis Ababa and that changing their place of residence was inappropriate. With regard to the arming of the witnesses for self-protection, the prosecutor then recalled the security situation in the country, which made it inappropriate to arm individuals.
After hearing both sides, the judges adjourned the hearing until May 4th. 2021 to make a decision.