East African

Ethiopian court frees Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma



By TESFA-ALEM TEKLE

Addis Ababa. An Ethiopian court on Wednesday ordered the release of Kenyan journalist Yassin Juma, as he made his fourth appearance since his arrest in Addis Ababa early in July.

Kedir Bullo, one of the team of Lawyers defending dozens of prominent opposition political figures arrested in the aftermath of the assassination of popular Oromo musician Hachalu Hundessa on June 29, confirmed the orders to the Nation.

Juma, whose real name is Collins Juma Osemo, was picked up by security agents on July 3 from the home of Jawar Mohammed, an activist and critic of PM Abiy Ahmed. 

Mr Mohammed is also the founder of Oromia Media Network (OMN) and is being held by Ethiopian authorities, accused of crimes related to undermining authorities.

Mr Kedir is one among the three Ethiopian lawyers who had been defending Mr Juma in Wednesday’s and previous court hearings.

“We have fiercely complained to the court that police have failed to come up with concrete criminal offences against the defendant and argued that the court shouldn’t allow police for any additional investigation date,” Kedir told Nation.

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“We challenged the court that keeping a foreign citizen in prison for over a month without pressing any criminal charges is against the law of  the land,” he said citing that would raise questions on the impartiality of the court.

Convinced by the arguments of the lawyers, the court ordered that Mr Juma, is released on 3,000 birr ($ 85) bail.

Despite the court order, the journalist was not yet out of jail by Wednesday evening. But it was expected that the Kenyan Embassy, which has earlier given him consular help, would aid his release by Thursday morning.

A spokesperson at the Embassy told the Nation the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nairobi would give details later.

Mr Juma was arrested last month and is facing charges including incitement and involvement in violence, plotting to create ethnic violence and plotting to kill senior Ethiopian officials.

These are the same charges that have been levelled against several opposition politicians after protests erupted from the killing of Hundessa.

Juma’s case had been seen in court alongside four other suspects including an Ethiopian journalist who similarly got court orders today for their release in bail.

Last week, the Kenyan government said Mr Juma has been given adequate assistance to defend himself.

However, the Ethiopian lawyers say the journalist has been fighting his cases in court without any legal representation.

Meanwhile, the team of Ethiopian lawyers that helped Juma secure his release have written an open letter to the Kenyan government, asking to be reimbursed for services offered.

“As you may anticipate, the allegations lodged against him were serious in essence,” they said yesterday.

“Hence we kindly demand from Kenyan government payment for the professional services we provided hoping that the notion of ‘gentlemen agreement’ holds in a situation of this kind.”



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