Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Applause and tears in court

Compared to any other Ethiopian news media, I've always considered Addis Fortune a good and fairly unbiased source of news (not just politics) out of Addis. If their online reports were regularly updated and subscription based, I would be the first to sign up. The following is an article on last week's court appearance of the arrested CUD leaders, alleged rioters and journalists. Article not yet published online (yet plagiarized copies abound...Gotta love the Internet!).

...The main agenda at the Wednesday January 4, 2006 Court session was to rule on the defendants' request for bail at the last appearance, but it also considered the case of Binyam Tadesse, who claimed to be 14 but had been charged by the prosecution as a 16-year-old.

The Court ordered in the last session that police should handle Binyam with special care and have a medical examination done to determine whether he was underage or not. The 2004 Criminal Code states that people between the ages of nine and 15 shall not be subject to ordinary penalties applicable to adults, nor shall they be kept in custody with adults.

Binyam was charged with the alleged crimes of outrage against the constitutional order, criminal conspiracy, and obstruction of constitutional power. During his first court appearance he wore his school uniform, this time he was dressed in a white T-shirt and trousers. The one thing that remained the same though was the look of fear on his face.

After checking the presence of the defendants, the Court looked at Binyam's case first. The Presiding Judge Adil Ahmed read a medical examination from Black Lion Hospital which confirmed the age of Binyam was between 16 to 18. Murmuring could be heard from people in the Court and there were many loud sucking noises from around the courtroom.

When Judge Adil began to read the charges to Binyam the lad spoke faintly: "I have a birth certificate" he said as he scratched his head. The Presiding Judge asked him where it came from; he responded that it was from the church. The murmuring and sucking of lips continued through the exchange. The Presiding Judge held off on giving a decision about Binyam until after ruling on the bail request of the defendants.

...After the recess, Judge Adil took into evidence Binyam's birth certificate and adjourned his situation until the next session to verify the contradictory results of the medical examination and the certificate. The prosecutor Shimeles Kemal objected that scientific results are conclusive for such cases and that the birth certificate should not be taken as evidence. Shimeles' argument raised guffaws among people present in Court.

Applause and tears in court (Addis Fortune) January 8, 2006