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15.02.2007 General News

Lawyers Decry Delay In Trial Of Tagor, Others

Lawyers for Kwabena Amaning, alias Tagor, and Alhaji Abbas Issah yesterday decried attempts by the prosecution to delay the trial and the horrible and inhuman treatment being meted out to their clients in custody.

Consequently, they renewed their application to the Accra Fast Track High Court to admit the suspects to bail.

According to the lawyers, apart from the suspects being transferred from one prison to another, even on their sick beds at the hospital they were chained, with armed policemen guarding them, a situation which suggested that the accused persons had been convicted.

The court did not grant their application for bail but cautioned the police investigator to see to the welfare of the suspects while in custody, especially on matters concerning their health.

The court, presided over by Mr Justice Jones Dotse, an Appeal Court judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, further asked the investigator to handle any request by the suspects to the hospital with prompt attention.

Counsel raised the concerns following the prosecution's inability, for the second successive time, to make its witnesses available to the court for the trial to continue.

Tagor is facing four counts of conspiracy, engaging in prohibited business related to narcotic drugs, buying of narcotic drugs and supplying narcotic drugs, while Alhaji Abbas faces two counts of conspiracy and supply of narcotic drugs.

They have pleaded not guilty to all the counts and have been refused bail by the court.

Kwabena Acheampong, Tagor, Alhaji Abbas, Victor Kisseh, alias Yaw Billah, and Alhaji Moro Mohammed were earlier arraigned at the circuit court for allegedly dealing in narcotic drugs but the prosecution, on Wednesday, November 22, 2006, entered a nolle prosequi, resulting in the discharge of the accused persons.

However, fresh charges were preferred against Tagor and Abbas, leading to their appearance at the Fast Track High Court.

Ms Gertrude Aikins, the acting Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), informed the court that the prosecution was unable to fulfil its promise to make available its witnesses for yesterday because they were outside the jurisdiction.

She, therefore, asked for an adjournment to next week.

Mr Ellis Owusu-Fordjour, counsel for Tagor, in reply, stated that the defence had accommodated the state for far too long and reminded the court that the suspects had been in custody since August 2, 2006.

He said the suspects had been treated like convicts, being moved from one prison to another, and mentioned some of them as Sekondi, the James Fort, the Osu Ministries Police Station, Ankaful, among other places.

In the case of Tagor, counsel said, he had been threatened that he would be sent to the Nsawam Prisons, adding that that amounted to both physical and mental torture.

“When he was sent for treatment he was handcuffed and chained, with two policemen wielding AK 47 rifles beside his bed,” counsel alleged.

Renewing his application for bail, counsel stated that even in more serious cases such as murder the suspects were admitted to bail and urged the judge to use his discretion in the case.

He said so far, five witnesses had testified in the case and indications were that the prosecution could not prove the charges and that was why all attempts were being made to delay the trial.

“The charges are bad in law and cannot be sustained,” he said, and added that they were unfounded, otherwise all those 'born again' people who preached on radio and television about having engaged in robbery or narcotics in the past should be arrested and prosecuted.

Mr Owusu-Fordjour said if the prosecution was not ready with the trial, the suspects should be admitted to bail for them to reappear whenever they were needed.

Counsel for Alhaji Abbas, Mr Osafo-Buabeng, associated himself with Mr Owusu-Fordjour's submission. Similarly, Mr Mohammed Attah, one of the lawyers for Alhaji Abbas, said on Tuesday his client was taken to the Police Headquarters and photographs taken of him.

Nana Asante Bediatuo, one of the lawyers for Tagor, said the defence was agitated by those things and appealed to the judge to exercise his discretion in the matter.

According to him, when Tagor was admitted at the Police Hospital, a doctor who was attending to him requested that he spend some few days there but when that doctor was not on duty, the investigator got another doctor to discharge the suspect.

Based on that allegation, the judge asked counsel to procure a note to support his allegation in order for him to set an example.

Ms Aikins responded that the bail application was not right because the prosecution had been very candid with the court regarding the witnesses to be called, except that they were outside the jurisdiction.

She said the suspects had been charged with specific charges and it was the court which would determine otherwise if, at the end of the trial, the prosecution was unable to prove any case against them.

The acting DPP said in very serious cases, suspects were not allowed to walk the streets but were remanded in police custody while investigations into the matter went on, saying now that investigations were completed it was necessary to send the suspects to prison custody.

The suspects were, therefore, remanded in prison custody and the case adjourned to February 21, 2007.

Story by Stephen Sah