ActionAid calls for case to be brought to a speedy conclusion.
The verdict in the case of Ethiopian anti-poverty campaigners Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie, which was expected today, has been postponed yet again because one of the three judges has had to be replaced because of illness.
The last evidence in the case was presented in Ethiopia's Federal High Court on 2 August. The two prisoners have been waiting since then to hear their verdict, first while the court completed its annual recess, and then for a further six weeks after the judges said that they needed extra time to consider all the evidence. Then last week (November 22) only two judges appeared in court. They said they could not give a verdict because the third judge was seriously ill.
Today the court postponed the verdict yet again, to 24 December, after ruling that the replacement judge needs 20 days to read the trial documents.
ActionAid's chief executive Ramesh Singh said: "It is very hard to hide our distress and exasperation at yet another delay in concluding this case. Daniel and Netsanet's lawyer argued in court that justice delayed is justice denied. It is certainly most unfair that Daniel and Netsanet are having to wait in jail for a verdict that was promised almost two months ago. They have been imprisoned for more than two years, convicted of no crime. We implore the court to find a way to bring this case to a speedy conclusion.”
The two anti-poverty campaigners are the only remaining defendants in a treason trial which began in in January 2006 and originally involved 131 defendants. They have been refused bail seven times in all, most recently on 6 August 2007.
Daniel Bekele is policy manager of ActionAid Ethiopia. Netsanet Demissie is director of the Organisation for Social Justice in Ethiopia, a partner organisation of ActionAid. They have been recognised by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders.
A timeline of the trial to date, and a collection of trial documents can be found HERE.