Bahiru Abraha arrested
The number of suspects charged for alleged corruption is growing. During the week, four other suspects including Bahiru Abraha, owner of Natran PLC, have been detained by the Federal police on suspicion of involvement in corrupt activities in collusion with Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) officials.
The four suspects have appeared before the Second Criminal Bench of the Lideta Federal High Court on Friday May 31st. The court has been in session daily this week except for Tuesday, which was a holiday celebrating the overthrow of the Dergue regime.
In its second hearing the Court rejected bail requests from accused government officials and businessmen detained in suspicion of corruption. The court hearing that was adjourned for Monday during the first hearing, upon the request of prosecutors for a 14-day extension to gather further evidence and witnesses, was held to listen to the presentation of evidence against suspects charged under the case files of Gebrewahid Woldegiorgis, Deputy Director of ERCA and Head for Law Enforcement of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA), and Melaku Fenta, Director of ERCA. Due to time constraints, some of the cases were referred to Wednesday and thereafter.
During the sessions, lawyers representing the suspects claimed that the Police has had sufficient time to conduct its investigation and the Court should grant bail to their clients under custody without additional delay. The investigation team informed the court again that it hasn’t concluded its investigation. Debates like the ones held before were the hallmarks of the argument that ensued between the two sides during the second hearing. Again based on the strong objections and arguments presented by prosecutors and the investigation team, the court declined to grant bail for the second time and gave prosecutors 14 more days to conclude their investigations.
The number of suspects under custody has currently reached 56, charged under 6 case files, and this number is generally expected to increase before the conclusion of the hearings. On Monday, the second hearing of all case files were supposed to have been held, but that was not possible due the extensiveness of the cases, and only one case file was heard, with each ensuing case file being addressed on subsequent days starting Wednesday. On Friday it was possible to look at two case files.
Lawyers of the suspects have presented their complaints to the court about human rights violations by the police, where claims were made by suspects of police brutality and torture inflicted by investigators.
The hearing for Thursday was for cases filed under the Mohammed Issa case file that included two new cases this week; that of Tigabu Gidey, businessman, and Frehiwot Getachew, manager of a transit company.
Another three more separate case files have been submitted to the court last week of which two have been presented to the court on Friday, while the third additional case file is to be presented to the court tomorrow, on Monday, June 3.