Melaku, Gebrewahid plead not guilty

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Addis Ababa, 25 June 2014 (WIC) – Melaku Fenta, former director general of Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) and his former deputy Gebrewahid Gebretsadik today plead not guilty in corruption charges.
The defendants entered a plea on each of the charges they are accused of under two separate files while a third file awaits Federal Supreme Court ruling regarding amendment of charges.

Melaku faces 11 charges under the two files with alleged offenses ranging from maladministration and abuse of power to possession of unexplained property and money laundering.
Melaku classified some of the accusations as acts permitted by law while he denied any role in others as he enters a plea of not guilty to each of the charges filed by prosecutors of the Federal Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (FEACC).

“I merely carried out my responsibility as I am required to do by law,” Melaku told 15th criminal bench of the Federal High Court.
His former deputy, Gebrewahid, who faces 22 charges under the two files, also pleaded not guilty to all. He is accused of similar offenses as Melaku with accepting bribes, possession of arms, and abuse of the right of seizure added to the charges.

On July 8, the court will move to examination of witnesses when the first witness of the prosecution takes the stand.
There are 66 defendants in all the three files. Except Getu Gelete and Ketema Kebede, two prominent businessmen, all defendants entered a plea of not guilty last week.

While Ketema missed consecutive court hearings as he is receiving medical care at Zewditu Hospital, Getu has never appeared before court in this case and is being tried in absentia.
The Federal Supreme Court is expected to pass a ruling on the third file on whether the charges should be filed separately or not. FEACC prosecutors lodged an appeal to the highest judicial organ following high court’s order for the charges under this file to be filed separately.