Sunday, February 18
This afternoon Kaliti was overflowing with exhuberant visitors eager to offer final words of encouragement to the imprisoned leaders and prematurely celebrate what they hoped would be their final visit to the federal prison. Family members, for the most part, appeared far more reserved, and the prisoners somewhere in between.
Though tommorrow is certainly a big day, it is highly possible that the speculations abounding both here and abroad may be simply that, and subsequent actions (and reactions) should therefore be very carefully considered.
I hate to be the pessimistic voice of the bunch, but let’s face it--the EPRDF is famous for creating anti-climaxes and brutally diffusing public momentum, so it seems highly possible that tommorrow’s session will be adjourned without incident.
Also (although there is remote possibility of acquittal) the principles of criminal law suggest that sentencing cannot actually occur on this date: in accordance with the presumption of innocence principle (“innocent until proven guilty”), it is the duty of the chief prosecutor to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged crimes have been committed—presenting both documentary evidence--audio, video, written documents etc--and witnesses pursuant to the criminal procedure. After all evidence has been presented, the judge must then make a decision as to whether the defendants have, in fact, committed the acts beyond reasonable doubt, and three possibilities remain (bringing us to date in the trial):
1. If the judge decides the prosecution has NOT proven that the crimes have been committed beyond reasonable doubt then the defendants will be immediately acquitted.
2. If the judge thinks that the prosecution has proven that a certain criminal act has been committed beyond reasonable doubt, but that act does not conform to the charges laid, he will change the charge and order the defendant to defend himself based upon the second charge.
3. If the judge decides the prosecution HAS proven that the acts have been committed beyond reasonable doubt then the defendants will be given the chance to defend themselcves (by trying to pole holes in the evidence presented by the prosecution and demonstrate that there is, in fact, reasonable doubt in the case that has been made)
If either of the latter should occur tommorrow, the defendants will be asked to present their evidence in rebuttal of the prosecution.
While the majority ot the defendants have refused to defend themselves due to the political nature of the trial, civil society activists Daniel Bekele and Netsanet Demissie will be providing a defense and, as all 131 defendants were originally charged by the prosecutor on a single charge sheet, all defendants must accordingly wait for the court to rule on any objections that one or more of the defendants make before the final verdict is given. It is therefore highly possible that the trial will resume only to be once again postponed though, as always, I hope for the IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL RELEASE OF ALL CURRENT POLITICAL PRISONERS.
Who knows what tommorrow will bring--the past year has taught us to be prepared for anything and everything. (I will do my best to provide the complete breaking trial report here tommorrow.)