ADDIS ABABA (RBB NEWS) – The former president for Ethiopia’s Somali region who was arrested on suspicion of gross human rights violations as well as instigating ethnic and religious violence makes his third court appearance Monday.
Security forces arrested Abdi Mohamed Omer, widely known as Abdi Iley a day after the Ethiopian state stripped him of his immunity, along with six other officials in August following days of violence that left dozens of people dead in the Ethiopia’s Somali region capital, Jigjiga.
With no response from Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed towards his pardon application thus far, Mr. Omar in cuffs has appeared before a court in Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa as state prosecutors pressing charges against him engaged in heated counterarguments with his legal defense team that in turn appealed a state pardon for him.
Once powerful and influential leader close to the ruling party, the former president faces numerous charges including overseeing years of human rights abuses and ordering ‘horrendous’ tortures against prisoners detained in the infamous Ogaden jail.
Abdi Illey has been since replaced by Ahmed Abdi Mohamed, who has once served as the head of the regional bureau of finance and economic development.
If convicted, Mr. Omar could face a long-term jail sentences, with some legal experts raised the possibility of a life jail term sentence.
Closing the latest court session, the judge who is reported to be reviewing documents and testimonies presented by prosecutors has reportedly closed the session, with the possibility of a final verdict to be made was being raised by sources close to the state.
During his reign, human rights groups have documents hundreds of people were killed by state terrorism, including many who are still registered as disappeared.
According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, the military in the Somali region of Ethiopia displaced thousands of people and destroyed their homes. Many were detained and tortured, and even executed. Those who suffered were perceived to be sympathetic to the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), an armed opposition group that for decades engaged in a deadly armed conflict with the state in the region.
However, the Somali regional state in Ethiopia has officially announced the closure of its main prison facility, located in the capital, Jijiga mid September.
The closure of the prison lauded by many in the region is seen as parts of attempts by the state to keep track with the new sweeping reforms introduced by prime minister Abiy Ahmed
Among the key reforms by Mr. Ahmed is Ethiopia’s historic peace deal with its neighboring arch-rival, Eritrea. His government has also signed peace deals with rebel groups that had been fighting with the state for decades.