Supreme Court orders injunction on high court’s ruling in Melaku Fenta et al case

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Addis Ababa, 21 June 2014 (WIC) – The Federal Supreme Court on Thursday ordered an injunction on the Federal High Court’s ruling regarding amendment of charges in Melaku Fenta et al case.
The injunction followed an application by prosecutors of the Federal Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (FEACC) who appealed the lower court’s ruling of May 30 which ordered separation of charges in one of the three files the defendants are accused of.

The Federal High Court 15 criminal bench ordered prosecutors to institute separate charges against each of the 15 defendants, excluding Melaku and Gebrewahid Gebretsadik in the third file. This file contains 28 charges and 31 defendants including Melaku and Gebrewahid Gebretsadik.

FEACC prosecutors lodged their appeal to the Supreme Court on June 16 arguing against the separation of charges and requesting an injunction on the lower court’s ruling until the Supreme Court renders its final ruling.
In an injunction order sent to the Federal High Court, the Federal Supreme Court suspended the lower court’s ruling until June 30 by which time it is expected to deliver a decision on whether the charges should be separately filed.

Meanwhile, the fifteenth criminal bench of the Federal High Court where the case is pending resumed hearing on the case of Melaku and 65 others.
On Friday, judges asked the defendants to enter a plea on the amended charges on the other two files. However, Melaku’s lawyer requested the court for an adjournment.
“I have consulted with my client regarding the plea. We couldn’t come to an agreement on some issues,” the lawyer said. “We request more time to consult to a college of mine [not present in court at the time] who also represents my client.”

FEACC prosecutors objected further adjournment on the issue stating the case has taken more time than it should.
“They had months to look at the charges which would be enough to decide whether to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty,” said one of the prosecutors.
Judges held that defendants should fully understand the charges against them before entering a plea and accepting the lawyer’s request for more time. Court also granted more time to Gebrewahid’s lawyers who requested a further adjournment citing the large number of charges against their client.

The other defendants, including prominent businessmen and their companies, however entered a plea of not guilty denying any role or criminal liability. Melaku and Gebrewahid will enter a plea on June 25.
Ketema Kebede, owner of KK Trading Plc, was one of two absentees in court on Friday. Ketema, who was also absent during the previous two hearings, is said to be receiving medical attention at Zewditu Hospital. The other is Getu Gelete, founder and major shareholder of GetAs International Plc, who is being tried in absentia.