Supreme Court upholds High Court ruling in Melaku Fenta et al case

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Addis Ababa, 1 July 2014 (WIC) – The Federal Supreme Court today upheld Federal High Court’s ruling regarding charge amendment in Melaku Fenta et al case; turning down the appeal lodged by prosecutors.
Federal Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (FEACC) prosecutors filed an appeal to the Supreme Court in mid June requesting the country’s highest judiciary organ to reverse the lower court’s ruling which ordered separation of charges

The order relates to one of three indictment files FEACC prosecutors opened at the 15th criminal bench of the Federal High Court against Melaku and 65 other defendants. This indictment file contains 31 defendants including Melaku and Gebrewahid Gebretsadik.

“There is no legal ground to warrant an appeal on this decision of the lower court,” the Supreme Court held today accepting the defendants’ line of argument.
Lawyers representing the defendants had argued that Ethiopia’s criminal procedure code under Article 184/b bars an appeal on such interlocutory decisions of courts.

Melaku, the former director general of Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) and his former deputy, Gebrewahid, are charged with maladministration along with four other defendants under this indictment file. The majority, 24 defendants, are charged with bribery under the same file.
Prosecutors lodged their appeal on grounds that their charges are founded on similar facts and separate trials would endanger the foundation of their case. They also argued witnesses would be forced to take stands repeatedly if separate trials are to be held

“There is no correlation between charges of maladministration and bribery to justify joinder of parties,” the Supreme Court held lifting the injunction it passed on the lower court’s ruling.
The 15th criminal bench of the Federal High Court last week adjourned the hearing on the case to await the ruling from the Supreme Court. The court will reconvene on Friday. 
Pending the high court’s decision later this week, the Supreme Court ruling means prosecutors could now be forced to file 18 separate indictment files against the 24 defendants.