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

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Addis Ababa, 27 June 2014 (WIC) – The Federal High Court 15th criminal bench today adjourned a hearing in Melaku Fenta et al case to await Federal Supreme Court ruling regarding charge amendment.
Prosecutors of the Federal Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission (FEACC) last week lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court requesting the country’s highest judiciary organ to reverse the high court’s ruling regarding separation of charges.

Following the appeal, the Supreme Court issued an injunction order against the lower court’s ruling until it passes a decision on whether the charges should be filed separately or not.
“The court has deemed it necessary to wait for the Supreme Court’s decision regarding separation of charges,” judges said today.     
The Supreme Court is now expected to render a decision on July 1 and three days later the high court will reconvene.

In a unanimous ruling given on May 30, the three presiding judges of the 15th criminal bench of the Federal High Court ordered the third file, where 31 defendants are named, to be filed separately.
The order meant, prosecutors were expected to open separate files for 24 defendants, most of whom accused of bribery. The court said the charges against Melaku and Gebrewahid Gebretsadik, former director general and deputy director, respectively of the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) and five other defendants only warrant a single file.
“The court found no legal ground to lump together the other defendants under this file,” judges had said.

Disgruntled by the high court’s ruling, FEACC prosecutors lodged an appeal on June 16.
On Thursday morning, FEACC prosecutors and lawyers of the defendants appeared before the Supreme Court and made their case on the issue.
Melaku and 65 of the defendants are facing several charges of corruption, tax evasion and money laundering in three separate files. All of the defendants, except for Ketema Kebede, who failed to appear before court due to illness, and Getu Gelete, who is being tried in absentia, have pleaded not guilty to all of the prosecutions’ charges.