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    Main » 2011 » September » 24 » wikileaks ethiopian and amrican
    10:45 PM
    wikileaks ethiopian and amrican

    Viewing cable 06ADDISABABA1788, ETHIOPIA: VIDEO PHASE OF CUD TRIAL CONCLUDES

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    Reference IDCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
    06ADDISABABA17882006-06-30 21:502011-08-30 01:44UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLYEmbassy Addis Ababa
    VZCZCXRO6707
    RR RUEHROV
    DE RUEHDS #1788/01 1812150
    ZNR UUUUU ZZH
    R 302150Z JUN 06
    FM AMEMBASSY ADDIS ABABA
    TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1378
    INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
    RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
    RHMFISS/CJTF HOA
    RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
    RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
    UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 ADDIS ABABA 001788 
     
    SIPDIS 
     
    SENSITIVE 
    SIPDIS 
     
    DEPARTMENT FOR AF/E DESK OFFICER MIKE GONZALES AND AF/E 
    LONDON, PARIS, ROME FOR AFRICA WATCHER 
     
    E.O. 12958: N/A 
    TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV ET
    SUBJECT: ETHIOPIA: VIDEO PHASE OF CUD TRIAL CONCLUDES 
    WITHOUT CONVINCING EVIDENCE 
     
    REF: ADDIS ABABA 1645 
     
     1. (U) SUMMARY: The prosecution wrapped up the video phase 
    of evidence in its case against detained opposition Coalition 
    for Unity and Democracy (CUD) leaders, independent 
    journalists and civil society representatives on June 26. 
    The final four videos had nothing more damning than those 
    videos previously shown. The final video, which was a sort 
    of highlight reel of the worst CUD comments from the other 18 
    tapes, was thrown out for being &inappropriate8 as 
    evidence. The audiocassette stage comes next, and may take 
    only a few days. It does not appear that the trial will 
    finish before the court goes on summer recess in August and 
    September, however. In the meantime, defendants continue to 
    have health problems resulting from prison conditions. END 
    SUMMARY. 
     
    2. (U) International observers continue to attend all trial 
    sessions. In addition to USG rep, the European Union and 
    United Nations have representatives present nearly every day, 
    as well as a rotation of representatives from various 
    European embassies. In addition, Lawyers Without Borders 
    (LWOB) representatives from the US have been attending the 
    trial daily with a local LWOB attorney. 
     
    ------------------------------------ 
    DEFENDANTS, HEALTH BECOMING AN ISSUE 
    ------------------------------------ 
     
    3. (U) Defendants who are present in court continue to appear 
    mostly healthy and in good spirits. However, a number of 
    defendants have missed court appearances due to health 
    related issues in the last two weeks, even leading to 
    adjournment of court for the June 21 session, because 8 
    defendants were out sick. Notably, Maj. Getachew Mengiste 
    has missed several days for surgery for what he had described 
    as a life threatening illness. Pregnant journalist Serkalem 
    Fassil has also been out for an extended period, but has 
    delivered her baby, which is reported to be underweight but 
    otherwise healthy. 
     
    4. (U) More recently, defendant Berhanu Nega was hospitalized 
    for two weeks for serious respiratory problems. Though he 
    has since been discharged and is attending court sessions 
    again, his wife (an Amcit opthamalogist) told Poloff that the 
    combination of Berhanu,s prior health history and the poor 
    conditions in which he is kept at the prison, put him at risk 
    for serious illness. Kidist Bekele, another defendant 
    complaining of health issues, announced to the court on June 
    27 that she is suffering from serious medical conditions 
    stemming from her epilepsy. (NOTE: She looked very sick and 
    had trouble standing and talking.) She claimed that doctors 
    had given her instructions to seek full-time help in a 
    specialized hospital, but that to date she has been permitted 
    only to visit the police hospital and only twice per week. 
    "If I die because of this, it will be the court's fault,8 
    she told the bench. The judge ordered the prison officials 
    to &do something as soon as possible8 about her situation. 
     
    --------------------------------------------- 
    A ROUGH ENDING TO VIDEO STAGE FOR PROSECUTION 
    --------------------------------------------- 
     
    5. (U) Despite the prosecution's withdrawal of 7 of the final 
    9 videocassettes that were to be shown (reftel), the 
    prosecutor on June 12 announced that they wished to introduce 
    3 new videos which were not originally listed on the evidence 
    list. Though the defense attorneys objected, the judge, 
    quoting the criminal procedure code, permitted them to be 
    shown. 
     
    6. (U) Only two of the new videos were eventually allowed to 
    be presented, while the third was thrown out by the court. 
    Shortly after the presentation of the third and final tape 
    began (which was essentially a highlight reel of quotes and 
    clips from the other videos that have been presented), the 
    defense attorneys objected complaining that the video had a 
    &very biased tone,8 that it was impossible to know the 
    context of the quotes since they were only 10-15 second 
    soundbites, and that the evidence was redundant, as most of 
    the footage was from videos already shown in court in their 
    entirety. The bench, after a adjourning for a day, decided 
    to disallow the tape on grounds that the footage had already 
    been presented in court. The judge further pointed out that 
     
    ADDIS ABAB 00001788 002 OF 003 
     
     
    when they initially permitted it to be shown, that they 
    assumed that it would contain entirely new footage. The 
    prosecution withdrew the tape and announced that it is moving 
    on the audiocassette phase of the trial. 
     
    7 (SBU) After being denied permission to show the video, the 
    prosecution prepared copies of the disallowed footage, with 
    written explanation of the content, and presented them to 
    international observers at the end of the following session 
    of court. The prosecution told the international observers 
    that they regretted not being able to show them in court. 
     
     
    ----------------------- 
    AUDIO PHASE TO BE BRIEF 
    ----------------------- 
     
    8. (U) Though the prosecution had originally submitted 11 
    audio tapes for evidence, they currently have plans to play 
    only one - an interview with Hailu Shawel on Tinsae Ethiopia 
    Radio on October 15, 20005. There was no explanation of 
    whether they will eventually decide to play the other 10 or 
    why they currently have no plans to present them. 
     
     
    --------------------------------------------- ---- 
    SUMMER BREAK FOR THE BENCH, BUT NOT FOR DETAINEES 
    --------------------------------------------- ---- 
     
    9. (SBU) According to Michael Ellman, the permanent observer 
    assigned by the European Union for the trial, head judge Adil 
    Ahmed Abdullahi told him that the there is little hope for an 
    end to the trial before the court recess, now planned for 
    August and September. Post recently issued a visa to Adil 
    for a 4-5 week trip to the US for work and family reasons, 
    beginning July 30. He will be traveling on an Ethiopian 
    Embassy program, together with other Ethiopian judges, for a 
    12 day program focused "on the judicial system." 
     
    ---------------------------------- 
    VIDEO EVIDENCE ON GENOCIDE CHARGES 
    ---------------------------------- 
     
    10. (U) On June 15 the prosecutor presented a video of a 
    pre-election rally (no date given) in Oromia. The prosecutor 
    said it showed defendant Bedru Adem inciting violence against 
    Tigreans and argued that this was proof of the charge against 
    him of attempted genocide. Indeed the video did show Bedru 
    pointing out that Tigreans have the lions share of government 
    authority and questioning &why with 35% of the population - 
    Oromos only have grassroots positions of authority8 in 
    comparison with Tigrean government ministers. However he 
    prefaced these statements with the remark, "I have great 
    respect and love for the people of Tigray.8 As has been the 
    case, Ethiopian Television (ETV), which reports nightly on 
    the trial, featured a story highlighting the charges made by 
    the prosecution against Bedru, but did not summarize any of 
    the content of the video. This caused Bedru to complain in 
    the following court session that, even though the judges had 
    ruled that ETV must present a fair and unbiased report of the 
    daily proceedings (reftel), they have not done so. He asked 
    the judge to pressure ETV further in order to put a stop to 
    this type of reporting. After deliberation, the judge denied 
    Bedru,s request, stating that he &can do nothing more to 
    dictate the journalists8 and he stated that it is difficult 
    to summarize a three-hour video in a brief television 
    broadcast. 
     
    11. (U) The other three tapes - one of Mesfin Woldemariam 
    giving a speech at pre-May election 2005 political debate, 
    and two tapes of footage of CUD Supreme Council meetings to 
    decide on whether to join the parliament and negotiation 
    strategy with the EPRDF ) made little obvious headway in 
    establishing concrete evidence against the accused. In 
    Mesfin,s speech, he made wide ranging comments on state of 
    democratic systems and the constitution in Ethiopia. This 
    was punctuated by criticism of the EPRDF,s human rights 
    record and the autocratic manner in which the country has 
    been governed since the party came to power. Mesfin,s 
    point was that &democratic systems are ruled by law, not by 
    individuals,8 which is fundamental to the constitution. He 
    listed large numbers of people he claimed had been killed in 
    recent years by the government, and yet the government had 
    &never seen a courtroom.8 Mesfin was not critical of the 
     
    ADDIS ABAB 00001788 003 OF 003 
     
     
    constitution itself, however; his speech was more of a 
    defense of the constitution against what the EPRDF had 
    (allegedly) been doing to it. He went on to preach about the 
    benefits of democracy and how it was preferable to any other 
    system, in part because over time, governments are forced to 
    &self-correct8 problems in the system. 
     
    12. (U) The footage of the CUD Supreme Council meetings 
    primarily centered on the consequences of the CUD,s decision 
    on whether to join the parliament. There was some 
    dissension among Council members about whether there would be 
    violent unrest among supporters as a result, or whether the 
    situation would remain relatively peaceful. Although all 
    agreed that by joining parliament they were in effect lending 
    legitimacy to the EPRDF government, many were worried that by 
    boycotting parliament, their offices would be closed, the CUD 
    party banned, and violent uprising by the public would 
    follow. Behanu Nega argued that &there is nothing beyond 
    peaceful struggle and a member who sees otherwise is not a 
    part of this (CUD) party.8 He also claimed that &there will 
    be no revolution.8 Another major point of discussion among 
    members was whether to push for inclusion of the 299 
    constituencies that the CUD claimed it had won in the May 
    elections, in addition to other demands, as a condition for 
    joining parliament. Essentially, by forcing &the 299 
    issue,8 they concluded that they would likely remain out of 
    parliament and thus not be representing the voters that did 
    in fact elect them. At the same time, failing to raise this 
    issue would not be fair to those whose votes were &stolen.8 
     In the end, the CUD Supreme Council chose not to press the 
    EPRDF on this issue. At no point did anyone call for violent 
    struggle, armed resistance or an overthrow of the 
    constitutional system, as had been suggested by the 
    prosecutor. 
     
    --------------------------------------------- ------- 
    COMMENT: HEAVY BURDEN NOW ON WITNESSES AND DOCUMENTS 
    --------------------------------------------- ------- 
     
    13. (SBU) The video phase of evidence ended much as it began 
    - with little concrete evidence against the defendants on the 
    charges raised by the prosecution. To date, the videos have 
    clearly demonstrated that the CUD party was unwilling to 
    accept the results of the May 2005 election, that they were 
    unwilling to join the parliament unless the EPRDF made 
    significant concessions, and that the party had a great deal 
    of support at rallies in areas in and around Addis Ababa. 
    Videos also showed the devastation caused by the June and 
    November uprisings, but drew no direct link to any of the 
    detainees. It is difficult find evidence that supports the 
    charge of &attempted genocide,8 though the tape of Bedru 
    Adem's comments did document the anti-Tigrayan rhetoric 
    employed by the CUD during the campaign. In general, 
    however, CUD leaders maintained a consistent line in the 
    videos in favor of non-violent struggle. The burden now 
    falls to written documents and witness testimony to link the 
    defendants more persuasively with the charges they face. 
    HUDDLESTON
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