Court orders charge amendments in Melaku Fenta et al case

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Addis Ababa, 31 May 2014 (WIC) – The Federal High Court fifteen criminal bench ordered some of the charges filed by prosecutors of the Federal Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (FEACC) against Melaku Fenta and co-defendants to be amended.

It was some three months ago that the defendants submitted objections to the charges to which the prosecution team responded. After several postponements, the court finally passed its ruling on Friday ordering few amendments in one file and major ones in another.

Melaku, and 65 other defendants, are accused of crimes ranging from corruption, tax evasion, money laundering to possession of illegal arms and other offenses filed under three separate files.

In the first file where 24 defendants are named, judges ordered the prosecution to amend just two of the 93 charges they filed under this file. One, which prosecutors failed to mention the time of the commission of the alleged crime, and the other, where the criminal provision alleged to have been violated and the description of the crime do not match.

Out of the 17 charges in the second file, the court ordered amendments to five where the prosecution failed to indicate the damage caused or the benefit gained from the alleged offense.

It was the third file that the court ordered major amendments. This file contains 28 charges and 31 defendants. Sparing just four of the charges, Judges ordered 24 charges to be amended which they found to have missed key ingredients such as place, time (of commission of the crime) and damage or benefit obtained from the crime among other issues. Judges also ordered the prosecution to file separate charges against each of the 15 defendants (most of them accused of bribery) excluding Melaku and Gebrewahid Gebretsadik.

The ruling was a welcome news for some of the defendants who felt their right to a speedy trial was affected because they are charged along with defendants they had no connection with.

The Court has adjourned the case for June 10, 2014 where the prosecution is expected to submit the final amended charges as ordered by the judges after which the defendants will enter a plea.