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.”