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09.12.2009 General News

Detained soldiers clash with prosecutors

By Ivy Benson - Ghanaian Chronicle
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The legal team of the five soldiers held in detention over the murder of Mr. Rocco Frimpong, the former Deputy Director of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB), yesterday clashed with state prosecutors at the Human Rights Court, as the former described the actions of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) as an illegality.

The legal team further criticised a report filed by state prosecutors, on the orders of the court, to explain the justification for the continuous detention of their clients, noting that the report was based on the suspicion of an unknown activity, and also evasive.

However, as the five soldiers appeared in person before the court, the state prosecutors noted that it had corrected the error committed, by securing a warrant at the Circuit Court to detain the applicants for the alleged crime they had committed, in view of the sensitive nature of the issue.

The court, presided over Justice Irene Danquah, an Appeal Court Judge with additional responsibilities as a High Court Judge, has therefore fixed December 15, 2009 to rule on the application.

The five soldiers, including Sgt. Michael Arthur, Richard Somuah, Cpls Charles Ankumah and Emmanuel Antwi and Sgt Lamptey Haizel, were arrested and held for the murder of the former Deputy Director of the GCB, by the BNI.

Making a case before the court for the release of the applicants, by way of an application of Hebeas Corpus, Mr. Joe Aboagye Debrah, counsel for the applicants, noted that the request being sought was founded on the 1992 Constitution that upholds the fundamental human rights of a person.

According to the counsel, the response filed by the Attorney General, admitting to unlawfully holding the applicants without due process to their human rights, could not be cured by a detention warrant secured at the circuit court a day to the hearing of an application for Hebeas Corpus, which had long been served on them.

Mr. Debrah noted that the applicants had been held by the BNI for about 458 hours, in contravention to the legal 48 hours required for detaining a suspect, after which they must be brought before a court for a warrant for continuous detention of the suspect.

The counsel pointed out that the applicants were not told of their right to counsel when they were sent to the circuit court.

Mr. Debrah therefore requested the court to order the release of the applicants, since the warrant procured by the prosecution, had not cured the illegality committed, adding that the applicants be re-arrested after the court's order, in accordance with the relevant procedures.

On his part, Mr. Kwaku Paintsil, an additional counsel for Sgt. Lamptey Haizel, told the court that the report filed by the state was based on the suspicion of an unknown activity that had not been stated in the report.

Additionally, the counsel noted that the report was evasive, as it did not state that the applicants were particularly involved in the murder of the former MD of GCB, warning that the state should not be allowed to flout laws, by merely making allegations.

The counsel also noted that the report filed by the state, lacked the material particulars upon which the applicants were being held, since it had not provided any facts as to why the soldiers were being held in detention.

Mr. Paintsil was of the view that any attempt by the state to go to any other court, when there was an application for it to clarify the justification of the continuous detention of the applicants, was an act of bad faith, which was contemptuous of the High Court, before which the application was pending.

According to Mr. Paintsil, at the time of the order, given by the court for a report to be filed by the state, it had obtained the warrant, contrary to the Hebeas Corpus Act.

He, therefore, requested the court to ignore the processes taken by the state, and treat it as not having effect, since the court must be satisfied that the detention of the applicants was made in accordance with the law.

Earlier on, the Acting Director for Public Prosecutions (DPP), Ms. Gertrude Aikins, submitted to the court that in compliance with its directives, her outfit had filed the report, dated December 7, 2009.

According to the Acting DPP, the investigation was sensitive and very confidential, noting that it was an unfortunate situation, which resulted from a joint operation of the military and the BNI.

Ms. Aikins noted that the applicants were first arrested by the military and handed over to the BNI, submitting that when her outfit noticed that the proper steps were not taken, the state quickly took steps to have the applicants properly detained.

She therefore submitted to the court for the applicants to be kept in custody, to enable them not to interfere in the investigations, due to the sensitive nature of the case.

In her reaction to the submissions of the legal team of the applicants, the Acting DPP noted it was allowed that investigations are made in all cases, but not all cases can have investigations completed within 48 hours.

Ms. Aikins noted that the applicants were talking about a supervening illegality, which the state admits, but had gone ahead to correct the error committed, no matter how late it was, stressing that the state did not breach any constitutional rights of the applicants.

She indicated that the warrant sought at the circuit court, was not done in disrespect to the court, but done in the utmost good faith.

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