Teddy Afro discharged! Previous sentence questionable?

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The Ethiopian Supreme Court Judge, Daniel Melaku, on Wednesday ruled to free popular singer, Tewodros Kasahun (a.k.a Teddy Afro), who was jailed December last year for manslaughter. Several Ethiopians believed, after his sentence, that the star’s imprisonment was politically motivated.

Teddy Afro had been accused of a hit and run incident involving a homeless person in the country’s capital, Addis Ababa, last December and sentenced to a six-year prison term. Teddy was detained in November 2006 and later released on a 50,000 birr bail (US $5,000) before he was re-arrested in April 2008 and sent to prison after a nine-month-long trial.

However, the Ethiopian Supreme Court Wednesday indicated that it would reduce the pop singer’s six-year prison term as it dismissed the manslaughter charges brought against him.

The singer has instead been charged with driving without appropriate documentation and could be released before July this year. Addressing the court, the judge indicated that the only crime committed by the singer was his failure to act as the victim was dying but instead chose to flee.

Sources have confirmed that the Ethiopian criminal code considers any motorist who flees 15 km away from a scene of an accident to have committed manslaughter. Fines range between five to fifteen years and a US$2,000 fine, but Leul Gebremariam, the judge who passed the previous sentence told Afro that he had been given the minimum sentence for the charges, stating that “The aim of the panel code is more corrective than punitive,” Justice Leul was quoted saying. ’That is why the court has sentenced the defendant to minimum penalties.

According to pundits, the miraculous and speedy nature of the Supreme court’s decision to dismiss the manslaughter charges to a mere misdemeanor questions the motivation behind the previous sentence passed by Leul Gebremariam, who had insisted that his ruling was not motivated by vendetta.

“The speed with which the Supreme Court acted shows that there have always been more than enough elements to prove Teddy’s innocence (…) and I think that the slow pace of the earlier trial was deliberate, in that, it prepared people to accept the unwarranted and unfair sentence” said an Ethiopian national who refused to be named.

Talking about the judge’s real motivation, the critic said that “today we understand that his decision to give him (Teddy Afro) the minimum sentence instead of dropping the case altogether was only because his facts were not right. If he had the smallest element against him, Teddy would be incarcerated for life!”

Teddy Afro has grown in popularity for his reggae hit songs, which are also classified as “national anthem” for opposition supporters.

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