Yesterday, the final witnesses for the prosecution were presented to the Federal High Court in Addis Ababa, where it was announced that the trial would take a 2.5 month recess to determine 'whether to allow a closing statement from the prosecution and grant permission for further defense of the accused'.
The 13 remaining witnesses (2 of the scheduled 15 were deemed 'redundant') produced by prosecutor Shiemels Kemal, were divided into groups and presented as such
The first was an elderly Tigrayan man (originaly from Shire) who claimed he was severly beaten and left for dead by a group of Kinijit members during the Nov. 2005 riots. As a resut, he alegedly spent 4 months in Black Lion Hospital and remains unabe to walk properly, in addition to suffering brain damage which has rendered him unemployable. Through tears, the man explained that he was beaten "for speaking Tigrinian", and confidently accused several defendants of this merciless crime. However, when asked to further identify the defendants present (both by name and sight), the formerly coherent witness suddenly became 'confused'. He repeatedy misidentified 2 of the prisoners, and then upon cross-examination, instead denied that any of the defendants had ever harmed him!
Presiding Judge Adil (in what seemed a late dispay of moral outrage) pressed the witness further--chastising him for accusing the prisoners, only to later confirm that they were not invoved in the violent crime after all. The witness repsonded that he was 'unable to identify his perpetrators because of the severe injuries he had suffered at that time', but then admitted to the court that the prosecutor had actually given him the names of the defendants! Despite protests that such 'discrepencies were the result of brain damage', the judge impatiently silenced the prosecution and demanded that the next group of witnesses be immediately presented.
The three guards from Torhailoch hospita who were next introduced testified that they were guarding the army hospital (on the Muslim hoiday following the November arrests) when they were swarmed by thousands of young rioters coming from Stadium (reportedly shouting, "Thief! Thief!", showing the 'victory sign', throwing stones and attempting to jump over the hospita gates and destroy the facilities). Apparenty not to be outdone by the other 'humorous' testimonies that have so far colored this ongoing trial, the witnesses claimed that the dozens of violent protesters they detained were certainly all Christians, easily verified by their ID cards upon arrest. When it was pointed out by the defence that ID cards do not, in fact, display religion, the witnesses quicky explained that they 'could just tell' by their dress!
The third group of witnesses presented consisted of several former EPPF fighters, who were rumored to have been brought directly from prison to testify. They claimed that they were told by leaders of this Eritrean-trained (and funded) guerilla group that "Kinijit is one with them" because they "share the same purpose, the same enemy" and further claimed that Kinijit leaders Andargachew and Berhane met with EPPF leaders (twice--in Germany and Eritrea) to announce that "Kinijit will join their armed struggle" because 'peaceful means were futile'. (In light of this particularly ridiculous allegation--which could quite easily be defeated by examining the passports of these men, one assumes--the character of the witness begs to be examined. It seems worth noting that the witness who supplied this tale is part of Kinet (a popular national theatre program) and his testimony, interestingly enough, much resembled that of a poorly-rehearsed actor--Though he began his soliloquy with great conviction, upon interruption he faltered... hesitated for a few moments...and then began again at the beginning of his testimony--repeating the entire story again, word for word!)
The court then called a break for lunch, after which the fourth group of witnesses were presented. This group consisted of 2 men and 1 woman (employees of the Bole kebele office) who were 'picked up off the street by police officers to witness the searching of the prisoners' homes', although no search warrants were ever produced. The judge then asked the witnesses to identify their signatures on the pages of a document provided by the prosecution (confirming the search procedures). The witnesses were incredulous, swearing that they signed only the first page of the document and insisting that they had never seen the additional pages in their entire lives! Though Prosecuter Shiemels heatedly argued that the witnesses had, in fact, approved the entire document, Judge Adil finally appeared to lose patience with his endless theatrics, and angrily silenced him, siding with the witnesses.
A local police commander (who identified on a map the areas where disturbances allegedly occured during the November 2005 protests) was the final witness to testify.