Relief came to Aryee Ayeetey (not Ataa Ayi) yesterday when the Accra Fast Track High Court cautioned and discharged him on alleged robbery charges, after being on remand for 14 years without trial.
He was in the dock with two others, namely Daniel Kwashie Ayivor, who was sick and could not make it to court, and Peter Aflagaji, but the two could not be released because they were already serving life sentences for an earlier robbery case.
They had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
Ayeetey's reprieve, which was at the instance of the prosecution because witnesses in that case could not be traced, came when five robbery suspects who had been on remand for 14 years without trial let out their plight and pleaded for mercy.
Either because there was no docket on them or the prosecution could not trace witnesses to commence their trial, the suspects had to languish in jail at the Nsawam Prisons.
However, the judge, Mrs Iris May-Brown, reminded Ayeetey about the circumstances of his discharge and explained that he could be picked up anytime, since he had not been acquitted. She, therefore, advised him to tread cautiously.
In the other case, the two suspects' plea for mercy was not heeded, as the court assigned lawyers for them and ordered the registrar to serve hearing notices for their trial to begin.
After Ayeetey had been discharged, another suspect who found himself in a similar situation drew the court's attention by a raised hand, saying, “My Lord, have mercy on me.”
The suspect, Francis Agyare, together with Henry Clottey Abbey, was given the opportunity to say whatever problem he had and Agyare said they had been on remand for 14 years without trial.
He said they had written various petitions to the Attorney-General drawing attention to their plight, but to no avail, since their docket could not be traced, while no relative came to visit them at Nsawam.
When the judge asked a Senior State Attorney, Mrs Evelyn Keelson, why those men were in prison custody, she replied that there could be a docket on them but it was not in court.
Following that explanation, the judge assigned a lawyer to the suspects and directed the registrar to serve hearing notices to facilitate the commencement of their trial.
One of the suspects told the court that their plight was not being attended to but the judge responded that the case was making a headway, since she had assigned a lawyer to them.
Another suspect, Henry Lamptey, who had been on remand for eight years without trial, was also assigned a lawyer for his plea to be taken for trial to begin within two weeks.
However, the senior state attorney replied that she might not be able to locate witnesses and asked for a longer adjournment to enable her to locate the witnesses.
The court said the prosecution should proceed with the trial and that if by the next sitting that had not been done, she would consider the bail application by the suspect's counsel.