In the past two months, the suspects could only manage to get legal representation once

Mar 30 , 2019

Bereket Simon (Left) and Tadesse Kassa

Investigators have wound down probes into Bereket Simon and Tadesse Kassa, former executives of Tiret Corporate, and handed over the case to prosecutors.

The two former executives were arrested two months ago on suspicion of high profile corruption, and investigators of the Amhara Regional State Anti-Corruption Commission have been conducting the probes ever since. During the latest court session held last Friday, March 29, 2019, investigators reported that they were done with the probes and transferred the case to prosecutors to press charges.

The suspects have appeared before the Regional High Court eight times and could only manage to get legal representation once, as many lawyers refused to represent them due to harassment and threats they faced from a group that attended the court sessions.

The prosecutors, who received a 613-page audit report, 35-page expert opinion and a list of witnesses from the investigators, have requested the Court grant a 15-day extension to file charges. The bench, which has been reviewing the case for the past two months, has closed the case so that it can be transferred to another bench that will review cases after charges are filed.

The two suspects opposed the prosecutors' extension request, stating that since prosecutors have been working closely with the investigators they do not need any additional time to file the charges. They have also appealed for bail rights and to have their case transferred to another court by citing their safety and the need to obtain legal representation.

After hearing both sides, the judges ruled that the suspects can request to be granted bail rights and legal representation as both requests are constitutional. The judges also ruled that their appeal to have their cases transferred to another court would be reviewed once charges are filed.

The Court passed over making any ruling on the 15-day extension requested by prosecutors, which confused their families and the public in the courtroom.

Article 109 of the criminal procedure code states that prosecutors shall frame, file and service charges within 15 days of the receipt of a police report.

"If charges are not pressed within two weeks, the suspects can appeal to have their cases dismissed and be released claiming wrongful imprisonment [when someone is detained against his will, without authority and/or cause]," said Adonay Teweldeberehan, an independent lawyer who was once a prosecutor.

Families of the suspects said that they will start to process bail rights for the suspects this week.

Arrested on January 23, 2019, at their homes in Addis Abeba, both suspects were transferred to Bahir Dar on the same day and detained at one of the police stations and appeared before the court two days after their arrests. Even though the families of the two suspects have hired lawyers, the first two lawyers declined to represent them after facing threats by a group of youth.

The families again hired two other lawyers, who could only represent them at the court once, according to Asefu Fente, spouse of Bereket.

"One of them has resigned, and we are searching for another to replace him," Asefu told Fortune, adding that most of the lawyers they approached were willing to handle the case at first but later on changed their minds due to safety concerns stemming from a menacing group of youth in the city.

The suspects and their families have also faced harassment and intimidation by the group, and the suspects have appealed the issues to the court.

In the latest session, Bereket mentioned his security concerns, saying that both suspects' families are facing threats and attacks.

The families have filed appeals to different offices including the Office of the Prime Minister, the Attorney General, the Federal Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commission calling for intervention.

Meaza Ashenafi, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, confirmed that the letter was filed at her office.

"I've discussed the matter with Yeneneh [Simegne], head of the region's supreme court, and he has told me that they are working to maintain due process and a fair trial," she told Fortune.

Asaminew Tsige (Ben. Gen), head of Peace Building & Public Security Affairs Bureau of the regional state, did not respond to phone calls and a text message from Fortune.

During the court session held two weeks ago, Tadesse Kassa, former CEO Tiret, and the owners of companies were charged with eight counts. He was charged for allegedly ordering illegal procurements that did not follow proper bidding procedures, purchasing shares for inflated values and granting loans to non-member companies of the Corporation.

Bereket, former and founding board chairperson, and Tadesse are suspected of alleged corruption related to a process by which Duet, a foreign company, acquired shares of Dashen Breweries.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 30,2019 [ VOL 19 , NO 987]

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