A world-renowned Ethiopian scientist Admasu Gebre, who has invented a Vehicle Guidance System (VGS), was sent to prison for 2 years this week in Ethiopia after a court found him guilty of copyrights violations, according to a report by Addis Fortune. How could some one who is involved in developing a space age technology be thrown in jail like a common criminal for such a minor offense, even if he is really guilty? The case is suspicious, to say the least. Could it be that the scientist refused to make Azeb Mesfin or one of the Woyanne officials a partner in his high-tech business that has a potential to make tones of money? Who is the plaintiff, Bruck Mekbib? Any connection or business relations with Woyanne officials? There is a report, yet to be confirmed, that he ties with associates of Tagay Gebremedhin. On top of the VGS, Admasu Gebre, a retired commander of the former Ethiopian Navy, has been constructing a lamp manufacturing plant in Kality, a suburb of Addis Ababa, that produces solar-powered lamps. Ethiopians like Commander Admasu are national treasures who need to be supported and encouraged, not be thrown in jail for minor infractions, if indeed there is an infraction of the law on his part.
The following is Addis Fortune’s report:
ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Admasu Gebre, who is credited for the innovation of a vehicle guidance system (VGS), was sentenced to serve two and a half years of imprisonment after he was found guilty of copyright violations over an Amharic film.
Admasu, 70, on behalf of his company, Navcom Energy Plc, signed an agreement in the United States (US) with Bruke Films Plc to produce a film titled “Menteyochu” or “The Twins”, on July 2006, with a budget of 800,000 Br. Navcom Energy Plc would finance the film while the profits were to be shared at a ratio of 45pc to 55pc, the former to be paid to Bruke, they agreed.
However, Admasu was charged by federal prosecutors along with Alula Amdemichael (a cameraman) at the Federal High Court on December 4, 2008. They were accused of bringing the movie to the country after completion without the knowledge of Bruke Mekbib, the producer and director of the film, and for changing the original title to “Le Abatewa,” literally translated “For Her Father”.
They screened the film on its inaugural at Sebastopol Cinema and for the public at Cinema Empire twice in a day in June 2008, according to the charges. The defendants transgressed the economic rights of the producer, violating copyright laws, the prosecutor alleged.
The charge against the second defendant was dropped as he was not apprehended, while Admasu presented documentary evidence denying all of the charges instituted against him. However, the court found the defendant guilty on Wednesday, August 25, 2010, stating that the evidence presented by the defendant actually proves the prosecutor’s case.
On the same day, the court heard mitigating and aggravating circumstances for sentencing. The crime, was committed for personal gain and with the participation of others, which should be taken as aggravating circumstances, argued the prosecutor.
The defence lawyer raised the defendant’s nationality (Dutch), age, health condition (arthritis), lack of a previous criminal record, and his being the head of a family to be taken as mitigating circumstances. The defence lawyer requested the court to substitute the prison sentence for a fine or to suspend the sentence.
The court adjourned the case for two more days for sentencing and ordered Admasu, who was out on bail during the trial, to be escorted to the Addis Abeba Prison Centre.
The long legal battle, which was presided over by four different judges and several prosecutors, was finally concluded on Friday, August 27, 2010.
The judge sentenced Admasu to serve two years and six months at the Addis Abeba Prison Centre, taking into consideration the mitigating grounds raised by the defendant.
“We will appeal,” the defence lawyer told his client who was standing in the defendant’s box and wearing a blue suit, right after the court sentencing.
“This is not just my victory,” Bruke told Fortune. “Your social status does not matter. The justice system works for all.”
Bruke Films Plc is planning to file a civil suit against Admasu and his company to recover the expenses that it incurred during production, the earnings that it lost from the film, and other economic and moral losses, according to Bruke.
Bruke also intends to file criminal and civil suits against Workman Nydegger (a law firm), James B. Belshe (a lawyer), David L. Smith (the editor of the film), and Alula, for allegedly conspiring to take the film without his knowledge.
Admasu, who was awarded a European patent in 1992 for his invention of a vehicle guidance system, was brought to the prison in a bus by prison officers along with several other detainees after sentencing. His innovation, which is installed in vehicles, is used as a dependable means of guiding a vehicle from one point to another as desired by the operator.