Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Court rules terror suspects to defend charges

The Federal High court Lideta division third criminal bench ruled that all 11 men must defend themselves against terrorism charges.

Since the summer of 2008 the 11 allegedly trained in Mogadishu, Somalia to start a Jihad (religious war). The prosecution accused them of learning techniques from a military manual about using weapons, bombs and explosives as part of their plan to start a holy war under the umbrella of a group called “Mujahidin Al-Shabab movement camp’s administration” and of preparing potential new recruits for this purpose.  

Hassen Jarso, Sheik Mohammed Kassim, Omer Issa and Yusuf Hassan (absentia) also must answer to charges of playing a leadership role in the terrorist plot.

Omer and Yusuf are also being charged will making illicit money transfer along with Abdurrahman Hussein who is being tried in absentia.

The court adjourned the trial to June 25 and 26.

When it resumes it will hear testimony from Hassen Jarso, Sheik Mohammed Kassim, Abdishekur Dawed and Basher Hajji Ismail. Omer Issa will present his case on June 29.

The prosecution had contended that the suspects were allegedly caught red-handed with evidence later taken by regional and federal level security forces.

The 11 defendants are the first suspects to be charged and put on trial for allegedly trying to commit terrorism under the auspices of the international terror group Al-Qaeda and the Somali militant group Al-Shabab.

During the May 17 court hearing, the prosecution brought four witnesses whose names and addresses were kept secret purportedly to protect their families and themselves.  Five other prosecution witnesses testified on May 18.

The first defendant, Hassen Jarso, a Kenyan man who allegedly rented a house with weapons and training manuals to conduct terrorist activities surprisingly plead guilty at an earlier hearing on May 17 while four co-defendants pled not guilty. The other six defendants are currently being tried in absentia.

In a separate trial, Reiyot Alemu a columnist for the Amharic weekly newspaper “Feteh” had a hearing at the same bench on June 7 to appeal her January 26th conviction of conspiring to damage electric cable infrastructure in six zones of Ethiopia and recruiting and being a member of a terrorist organization. She had been sentenced to 14 years in jail with a 33,000 birr fine. The court adjourned the case to June 22 to hear the arguments of the prosecution and the appealing side.

The other three who were convicted on similar charges Zerihun GebreGizabher President of the Ethiopian National Unity Party; Wubeshet Taye, a journalist from the newspaper Awramba Times  and Hirut Kifle have taken another route. They have asked for a presidential pardon which is in the process of being considered. While Elias Kifle, the first defendant and owner of an Ethiopian opposition website the Ethiopian Review based in Washington DC, was tried and convicted in absentia.