The arrest of Bereket Simon is illegal: Here is why

Amhara region’s special force captured Bereket Simon in his house in Addis Ababa on Wednesday morning and took him to Bahir Dar later that day, according to the news on state-media. (Some sources say he was detained the previous evening, but that doesn’t matter much).

He appeared in Amhara region court today (Friday). The court remanded him to police custody for ?? days, rejecting Bereket’s request to transfer to be tried in Addis Ababa.

According to state-media, Bereket requested to be tried in Addis Ababa due to health and family reasons.

But Bereket could have challenged the legal mandate of the regional anti-corruption agency and the regional court to investigate and prosecute him on corruption allegations. 

Here is why!

1) Amahara region has no prosecutorial power on grand corruption.

According to Proc. 433/2005 (the Revised Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission establishment proclamation as amended by Proc. 883/2015), the power of prosecuting a grand corruption offence is the power of the federal anti-corruption commission (now, the federal Attorney General). The later could delegate to regions its prosecutorial powers only in cases other than grand corruption.

If Bereket is suspected of grand corruption, then there is no way Amhara region could prosecute him.

2) Amhara region’s investigation has been illegal.

Amhara region could conduct corruption investigations and then transfer the file to the federal attorney general when it receives credible allegations. But, even in such cases, Amhara region shall immediately notify the federal attorney general about the investigation, according to Proc. 433/2005.

Amhara region’s Anti-corruption commission said on Wednesday on Amhara tv, the investigation on Bereket has been ongoing for several months. On the other hand, the Public Relations director of the federal Attorney General, Zenabu Tunu, told Sheger radio on Wednesday that the Office of the federal Attorney General “has no knowledge of the matter”. This means Amhara region didn’t notify the federal Attorney General about its investigation and didn’t obtain approval.

Thus, the investigation process by Amhara region, by extension the arrest, is illegal.

3) Tiret and its subsidiaries were not Amhara region’s public enterprises when Bereket was Board Chairperson.

Until mid-2018, Tiret Corporate was an endowment and its subsidiaries (companies) were PLCs and share companies. Bereket left the Board chairmanship in early 2018.

Amhara region’s ruling party made a political decision to make Tiret a regional public enterprise in mid-2018. We don’t know if that decision was implemented to date.

At any rate, Bereket was a Board Chair of an endowment and private companies. Legally speaking, he was not appointed by ADP (ANDM) or by Amhara region.

Therefore, Amhara region can not claim Bereket was an official of a regional public enterprise and can not claim to have any prosecutorial power on that ground.

4) Even the federal Attorney General might not have the legal mandate.

Mismanagement of ‘public organizations’ (includes CSOs, Endowments, Companies) was designated as a corruption in 2015. It was Proclamation 883/2015 that empowered the anti-corruption commission (now the federal Attorney General) the power to investigate and prosecute officials of public organizations.

Therefore, Bereket could be charged of corruption with regard to Tiret (an endowment) or its subsidiaries (PLCs and Share Companies) if only the offence was committed after 2015.

For example, the sale of the shares of Dashen company (which the Amhara region anti-corruption commission mentioned in its press conference as one of the allegations) was conducted in 2012-2013. Therefore, it can not be prosecuted as corruption.

The arguments listed above also apply to Taddese Kassa (‘Tinkeshu’) who served as CEO of Tiret corporate until early 2018 and captured in his house in Addis Ababa on Monday by Amhara region special police. He was presented to court today along with Bereket Simon.

It is worth noting that today one of the judges took at least two photos of Bereket and Taddese during the court proceeding and had it disseminated in the social media. Ethiopian courts do not normally allow camera and recordings into courtrooms and never had a judge been engaged in such extremely biased and trivial activity in the history of Ethiopian courts.

Bottom line: It is apparent that the whole episode is a political circus than a genuine legal process. Therefore, it would be appropriate to call the detention of Bereket Simon and Taddese Kassa an abduction and the court proceeding a sham trial.

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Daniel Berhane

Daniel Berhane

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