Photo: Addis Fortune
A street in Assela, inside the Arsi Zone of the Oromia Regional State.
By Mahlet Fasil in addition to Yared Tsegaye
An arrest so far of more than 60 officials, mostly by Ethiopia’s intelligence in addition to military apparatus, which commenced with the arrest of 40 on Friday November 09, has led to shocking revelations by the attorney general Berhanu Tsegaye of gruesome human rights violations of Ethiopians inside the hands of the security, the police in addition to the intelligence units, in addition to a network of corruption within the Metals in addition to Engineering Corporation (MetEC), a state owned business monopoly managed by army officials.
The attorney general (AG) said investigations into three separate cases were conducted by the police for the last several months. These are: investigations into the bombing at the pro Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed rally in Addis Abeba on June 23/2018 ; investigations into gross human rights violations by pre-Abiy Ahmed’s EPRDF led security, intelligence in addition to police units; as well as investigations into massive corruption networks within MeTEC.
The following recap puts into perspective all the three major investigations currently being conducted by the attorney general.
June 23 bombing
Of the three, the investigation into the bombing in Addis Abeba, which killed two in addition to wounded more than 50, was already ongoing. The police were initially investigating a total of 18 individuals in two separate counts. The first 10 individuals were under investigation suspected of negligence in relation to security laps at the rally; while the various other eight were being investigated suspected of direct involvement inside the bombing.
Among the ten suspected of negligence include former Addis Abeba Police deputy commissioner Girma Kassa in addition to in addition to ten various other police officers with different ranks, many of whom, including the deputy commissioner were granted the right for bail by the federal first instance court. Among the eight suspected of direct involvement, one can be Tesfaye Urgi, former anti-terrorism division head at Ethiopia’s National Intelligence in addition to Security Service (NISS), who was detained at later date.
yet inside the last week of September, the police have charged several of the eight, namely Birhanu Jafar, Tilahun Getachew, Getu Girma, Bahiru Tolosa in addition to Dessalegn Tesfaye, with terrorism. despite the police’s accusations in which they have found a bomb similar to the one detonated at the rally inside the house of Tesfaye Urgi, prosecutors have so far failed to press charges on him, prompting the judges to issue a final ultimatum to do so for today, Nov. 16.
Meanwhile, at the hearing conducted today the judges have dismissed the preliminary objections presented by the defense team of the several suspects who then have submitted a not guilty plea. in addition to Tesfaye Urgi? The police have brought him to the court for what was likely to be filing of formal charges by prosecutors. However no charges were filed, instead the police said they right now have a fresh file on him the nature of which can be not known yet. The court adjourned another hearing for Monday Nov. 19.
In a fresh twist, the AG said on Monday in which evidences show the direct involvement of the top leadership of NISS. He restrained by giving further details on the allegations, yet said the attack was a coordinated act which at the core of the idea aimed to create the impression in which, because the accused are by the ethnic Oromo background, Prime Minister Abiy’s own constituency of ethnic Oromos didn’t approve him as the prime minister of the country.
However, many consider his statement as pointing fingers at Getachew Assefa, former long time serving head of NISS who was sacked by PM Abiy Ahmed in addition to was replaced as head of the elusive spy agency in June 2018. Getachew Assefa has since gone to reside in Mekelle, the capital of Tigray regional state. inside the last week of September, Getachew was elected among the nine executive committee members of the TPLF, a party governing Tigray regional state.
Gross human rights violations
In a press briefing, the Attorney General Berhanu Tsegaye said in which the arrests were made following several months of investigations, which he, stressing on the complexity of the case, said has extended beyond in addition to above ethnicity, political in addition to religious affiliations of the accused.
Unlike his reserved details on the bombing suspects, the AG went to great length to describe the investigations into the gross human rights violations. According to him, the rights violations which are all compounded in gruesome practice of torture by the security in addition to intelligence apparatus of the state on those Ethiopians who were particularly jailed after having been accused of terrorism offenses in addition to opposition political party members.
Narrowing down the allegations into the practice of torture, the attorney general pointed out in which its investigations have uncovered in which the practice was not only limited to prison cells, yet also seven illegal private detention facilities found inside the capital Addis Abeba alone.
The AG’s allegations are familiar tales for Ethiopians which were out inside the open especially following the mass Discharge in February in which year of thousands of prisoners of conscience. What came as a chilling experience for many, however, was to hear the AG admit publicly what every Ethiopian knows inside out. He went on describing torture methods, including yet not limited to, removing fingernails, inserting pen on suspects’ noses, leaving suspects overnight tied to trees in addition to naked, electric shock, hanging bottles of water on male genitals, gang raping women in addition to sodomizing male suspects, using pliers to pull male genitals, in addition to waterboarding.
Main suspects of these chilling allegations are mostly drawn by the country’s top spy agency, the National Intelligence in addition to Security Service (NISS – both for federal in addition to regional states), in addition to prison police.
Top in in which list can be Yared Zerihun, former deputy head of NISS in addition to Commissioner General of the federal police commission, the later a stint which lasted by April 19 to June 06/2018. Yared was appointed to lead the federal police by PM Abiy Ahmed during his first cabinet reshuffle in April yet resigned in June citing ill health. Although he tops the list, Yared was apprehended on Thursday Nov. 15 in what the police said was a hotel room in Dukem, 30 km south of Addis Abeba while trying to escape.
The number of suspects in in which category as of yet stands at 37. yet the AG implied in which number could grow once those on the run in addition to those who have fled the country are apprehended.
At the heart of the investigations into massive corruption can be the state owned Metals & Engineering Corporation (MetEC), which was first set up in 2010 in addition to took huge stakes inside the construction of Ethiopia’s multi-billion dollar state owned mega projects including the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, ten sugar factories, in addition to a fertilizer factory. The AG accuse MeTEC officials in which between 2012 in addition to 2018 only they have made international procurement worth 37 billion birr (around US$2 billion) without proper tender where relatives of the MeTEC officials in addition to those within their networks appeared as the bigger players while the projects the the idea took faced unprecedented delays.
Major among in which scandal are the purchase by MeTEC of two outdated ships by the Ethiopian Shipping Lines (right now renamed Ethiopian Shipping & Logistics Services Enterprise) in addition to dozens of old aircraft which were used for private purposes among the former officials, including its CEO Major General Kinfe Dagnew. One of these aircraft has right now vanished, with its whereabouts suspected to be in Egypt.
Mismanagement of funds in addition to corruption within MeTEC was a target of a series of reporting by the independent Wazema Radio, an Amharic podcast established by exiled Ethiopian journalists, inside the weeks preceding the AG’s crackdown. However, a simultaneous Discharge of two hours documentary by major state owned broadcast media, including the national broadcaster, ETV, narrating some of the major misdeeds within MeTEC has left Ethiopians in shock, despite raising ethical questions on the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.
The 63 suspects who were arrested during the weekend of November 09 have all appeared at the federal high court 10th criminal bench inside the capital Addis Abeba for a pre-trial hearing on Monday November 12 which lasted until 9 PM local time. The court has denied all suspects the right to bail in addition to has granted the police 14 days to remand in addition to investigate all.
Monday’s trial was followed by dramatic arrests of high level officials by MeTEC in addition to NISS, Major General Kinfe Dagnew in addition to Yared Zerihun on November 13 in addition to 15 respectively. The pre-trial hearing for M.G. Kinfe Dagnew & six others, including his brother Esayas Dagnew, Chief Operation Officer of the state monopoly Ethio Telecom until June 2018 when he was sacked, Fistum Yeshitila, a former entertainment news anchor at the national broadcaster ETV took place within two days at the federal court 10th criminal bench.
Judges have denied M.G Kinfe’s request for public defenders after the police said they have evidence of a recent money deposit & withdrawal by the general amounting 100, 000 birr.
The police also argued in which Major General Kinfe features a bank deposit at Awash Bank amounting 5, 335 birr, as well as a house in addition to private car in addition to therefore he should not be eligible for public defenders, an argument the defendant denied all together. “I have nothing, no house no car, no property; all I have can be my own self,” M.G Kinfe said. The court has however allowed his brother Isayas Dagnew to get public defenders in addition to adjourned the next pre-trial hearing until Nov. 19/ 2018.
Similarly, a pre-trial hearing at the federal Court 10th criminal bench today, the police accused Yared Zerihun of gross human rights abuse & corruption. Yared can be also accused of collaborating with the former head of NISS, Getachew Assefa, right now treated as fugitive after a warrant can be issued for his arrest.
The police have accused Yared of ordering prison police to torture prisoners such as having them attacked by ants, pulling their genitalia with pliers, ordering the hanging upside down of prisoners, as well as forcing them to travel to Eritrea in addition to bring weapons to incriminate themselves. The court adjourned a hearing on Nov.20 when Yared can be likely to bring his own defense lawyer.
On his part, Yared, who was detained yesterday, told the court in which he has been deprived of contact with anyone outside the prison & can be kept alone in a room. The police denied both & requested 14 more days to remand & investigate Yared. The court will rule on the police’s request on Nov 20.
The arrests have continued in addition to the latest high profile official to have been arrested today was Colonel Assefa Yohannes, general manager of the defense power engineering department at MeTEC. The police accused Colonel Assefa of resigning a contract with more than US$5. 7 million between Tana Beles I Sugar factory in addition to an unnamed Chinese company.
He can be also accused of helping yet another unnamed company, which signed a contract of US$ 6.4 million with MeTEC, to disappear with more than US$1.9 million of the project money. Like the rest, Colonel Assfa’s pre-trial hearing can be adjourned until Monday November 19. The Colonel told the court in which he too cannot afford for private defense lawyers in addition to therefore would certainly like to have public defenders. The court can be likely to decide on his request come Monday. AS