High Court Judge Leul
Gubremariam on Monday admitted the state prosecutor’s evidence against
Ethiopia’s popular music sensation, Teddy Afro, on charges of driving without a
license and of homicide by causing the death of a young homeless man on
November 2, 2006. The judge set the
date of the hearing for Teddy’s defense testimony for September 21 (Sept. 29 in
the Ethiopian calendar).
Since his arrest in April of this year, the young singer and
activist whose given name is Tewodros Kassahun has been held without bail in
Kaliti prison in Addis. Teddy has
continued to declare that he was not driving the car that killed 18-year-old
Degu Yibelte. Degu had recently moved
to Addis from Gojjam and was unemployed.
Based on a telephone tip, police first arrested Teddy in
November, 2006, on suspicion of driving a car in a hit-and-run accident. The alleged witness was later charged with
perjury and Teddy was released and cleared of those charges.
In recent court proceedings, the prosecution submitted an
autopsy report that declared the deceased had died the day before the date of
the accident. Over objections made that
day by Teddy’s lawyer, Million Assefa, the judge ruled today that the date on
the autopsy was simply a clerical and received the autopsy report as evidence
along with police reports of a witness to the accident. The witness was not in the courtroom.
Teddy appeared confident during today’s hearing and was
dressed in a suit and open-collared shirt. As he left the courtroom he held an
open hand aloft and said, “God is Almighty.”
Many in the courtroom wept.
The trial has been closely followed in Addis by Teddy’s
many fans. His two recordings, which
have sold very well in Ethiopia and outside the country, are a blend of
Ethiopian culture and politics with strong influences of both the rhythms and
the spiritual nature of reggae. Teddy
has been favorably compared to the Jamaican reggae legend, Bob Marley. His second album, Yastesaryal, pleads for
unity and peace, while the lyrics of some of the songs have been interpreted as
an anthem for those in Ethiopia who seek to oppose the ruling party, the
Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary & Democratic Front. The government’s state-owned media have
banned one of his songs, “Jah yasteseryal.”