Posted 20th March 2009
Prosecution witnesses fail to show at trial of Canadian jailed in Ethiopia
A Canadian jailed in Ethiopia on terrorism charges made a brief court appearance Thursday before the case was adjourned because none of the six prosecution witnesses showed up.
CBC’s Africa correspondent David McGuffin was in the Addis Ababa courtroom and spoke to Bashir Makhtal briefly.
“He looked very good. He looked healthy,” McGuffin said. “He seemed strong. He seemed in good spirits. He was talking to the other people around him.”
As he was led out of the courtroom, Makhtal told McGuffin, “I’m fine.”
Prosecution lawyers said they didn’t have time to get their witnesses there. Some observers suggested that was a delay tactic since they had been given a month to produce the witnesses.
Canadian consular officials were also in the courtroom.
Ethiopian-born Makhtal is a Canadian citizen who was among dozens of people arrested when Ethiopia invaded Somalia in December 2006, ousting the Islamic government.
A computer programmer in his 40s, Makhtal was on what his family in Toronto calls a business trip at the time.
He is accused of being the leader of the separatist Ogaden National Liberation Front and faces the death penalty if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.
According to his lawyer, Makhtal is being persecuted because his grandfather founded the rebel group in 1984.
The group is fighting for the Somali-speaking population in Ethiopia’s oil-rich Ogaden region, which it says has been marginalized by the government.
Ethiopian Weyane government allegedly held Makhtal in secret detention for two years.
His case was transferred from military to civilian court at the urging of Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Canadian Transport Minister John Baird, who was pressured to act by the large Somali population in his Ottawa West-Nepean riding.
Baird said he might travel to Ethiopia to visit Makhtal.
His case is scheduled to resume April 20.
Return Back to: ABBAY MEDIA FRONT PAGE