The courtroom was packed once again, and there seemed to be even more ferenji observers than usual. It seemed especially cruel to keep everyone in suspense for hours, considering the nature of the session, but wait we did--though the delay was not without its comic moments (when, for example, the phones of the plainclothes spies rang repeatedly, exposing them at once since the rest of us had to leave our phones, keys etc with the guards at the door!)
The prisoners were finally brought in after a 2.5 hour delay and the judges arrived a few minutes before noon; all defendants (and judges) were present. The judges concluded that ‘because most of the defendants are well educated and therefore able to identify the legal consequences of their actions, their sentence must reflect the severity of their decisions and actions’; however, as the defendants are charged with attempt to overthrow the Constitution (rather than completion of the act, which would permit the sentence of capital punishment) the 38 defendants (including those tried in absentia) were sentenced to life in prison.
Of the 9 who had chosen to defend, it was announced that their defense attorney 'had not proven relevant extenuating circumstances’: Berhanu Alemayou,Wedneh Jedi, Melaku Oncha and Mesfin Jabesa received 18 years imprisonment; Abiyot Wekjira ad Daniel Berihun received 15 years; Wenaksegad Zeleke was handed a 3 year sentence, and Dawit Fasil was sentenced to 1 year and six months. All defendants who received a lesser sentence were also denied the right to participate in politics for 5 years.
Both of the agencies charged were order to cease all operations—Serkalim Publishing Agency was ordered to pay a fine of ETB 120 000 and Sisaye Publishing, ETB 100 000.
Dr. Berhanu appeared particularly disgusted with the sentences and got up to leave the courtroom but, for the most part, the prisoners and family members seemed to be expecting nothing less and took the news accordingly. The prisoners left with their usual courage and deliberate cheer, exchanging grins and the “V” sign with friends and family members as they passed.
The road back from Kaliti to the city center was lined with more police than usual, and some were in full riot gear (masks and shields).
(Today’s session was nothing less than infuriating: To hear each Article of the Penal Code invoked as if it actually had meaning in this country, and to have to listen to the descriptions of post election violence as if the Independent Commission itself hadn’t ruled that government forces were responsible for the excessive force that lead to the deaths of 193 innocent civilians was too much… It makes one ill to witness such blatant manipulation of the truth and mockery of justice in a federal institution!
How long can this go on?!)