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Rejects Anti Corruption’s request to revoke Kassim Fite’s immunity

The House of People’s Representatives declined the request tabled by the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEAC) to revoke the rights to immunity guaranteed by the Constitution to Kassim Fite as a Member of Parliament (MP). Kassim Fite is also Manager of the Land Administration and Construction Permit Authority, and the immunity revocation request is based on alleged corruption in land-transfers.
The Anti-Corruption Commission stated that Kassim has deliberately allowed Yohannes Derseh, a hotel owner, to illegally lease 500 square meters of land in Woreda 3 of Bole Sub City initially leased to Girma Afework (Eng.) for the construction of a 12-storey luxury apartment in 1995.
Formerly, three kebele houses were located on the site and the residents apparently refused to leave the area, forcing Girma to take them to court where he won the case on October 12, 2004, allowing him to commence work on the planned construction. However, the land was again illegally transferred to Yohannes Derseh without giving Girma the chance to develop the land in accordance to the law.
The Anti-Corruption Commission hence requested the House to revoke MP Kassim’s immunity on August 2, 2012 so as to be able to formally investigate and or file charges against him. The Commission was claiming that Kassim has allegedly provided incomplete documents to the Land Administration Board and deliberately concealed documents that confirmed Girma’s ownership of the land.
The House forwarded the request to the Law, Justice and Administration Standing Committee on October 11 for review.
MP Million Assefa, Chairperson of the Standing Committee, said its Committee has held in-depth discussions with both the Anti Corruption Commission and MP Kassim for quite some time. He then categorically stated that the Standing committee’s conclusion is that the MP’s immunity right be revoked. He further requested the House to approve his Committee’s decision.
However, most MPs said that the Standing Committee’s decision lacked detail and transparency. Some even claimed that proper procedures haven’t been followed and that such requests should have been made by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), and not the Anti Corruption Commission. “I think this is a case that lies under the federal crime statute. Therefore, the Ministry of Justice should have brought the case to the parliament,” said an MP. “And if it was a regional issue, it would be the president of the regional state who should bring such a request to the parliament,” he explained. The MP further stated that the Anti Corruption Commission should not be allowed to detain or accuse the MP until it completes its investigation. He asked how the Commission could come up with such a request without conducting a proper investigation.
After a little more than an hour of intense debate, the House finally closed the session, rejecting the Commission’s request.
Capital learnt that the MPs were content on how the decision was taken though some didn’t agree with the decision itself. They felt that a transparent and firm discussion was held before they announced their decision, which shows that the ‘House has started to challenge proposals and performances of different government institutions and is not acting as a rubber stamp,’ they said.