Prosecution: Rokko was murdered on orders
The five soldiers, who stand accused of murdering the Deputy Managing Director of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB) Mr Rokko Frimpong, were allegedly instructed by their superior officer to kill the banker.
According to the prosecution, the five were instructed to kill Mr Frimpong, who was said to have uncovered some fraudulent deals in the redenomination exercise which incriminated some former top government officials.
The accused persons were said to have received between GH¢5,000 and GH¢ 1 5,000 for carrying out that assignment. Counsel for the soldiers, Mr Joe Aboagye Debrah, has however described the prosecution's case as "concocted pack of lies," and maintained that "at the appropriate time their innocence would be proven".
The soldiers - Sergeants Michael Arthur, Richard Somuah, Lamptey Haizel, Corporals Charles Ankumah and Emmanuel Antwi - have accordingly been charged with two counts of conspiracy and murder.
They were yesterday arraigned at the Osu District Magistrate's Court, presided over by Mr Emmanuel Bart Brew Plange, and were remanded in prison custody to re-appear on January 22, 2010.
Their pleas have not been taken.
Presenting the facts of the case, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Patrick A. Morkeh, told the court that the five were recruited by their superior officer (name not provided in court) at the 64 Infantry Battalion to eliminate Mr Frimpong, who was said to have uncovered the rot involving some top-ranking government officials.
According to the prosecution, the soldiers were instructed to kill Mr Frimpong to prevent the said government officials from being exposed.
The prosecution said for their reward, they were allegedly given between GH¢5,000 and GH¢ 15,000. Four of the soldiers, according to the prosecution, admitted receiving the moneys for unexplained reasons but not for the murder of Mr Frimpong.
It said the other one claimed he never received any money.
Mr Morkeh prayed the court to remand the accused persons, since investigations were ongoing.
Reacting to the prosecution's assertions, counsel for the soldiers maintained that his clients were innocent, adding that he would prove the innocence of the accused in due course.
Mr Debrah explained that his clients reported for work because they knew they had not committed any offence only to end up being picked up by security operatives.
He described the accused persons as “young soldiers who have dedicated themselves to the service of the country. It is unfortunate this is happening to them".
Counsel argued that it was strange for the state to accuse the soldiers of murdering Mr Frimpong when some civilians had been arrested, investigated and the docket on their case forwarded to the Attorney-General's office for advice over the same issue.
Mr Debrah explained that the moneys given to the soldiers were ex gratia payments the previous government made to some security officers for their dedicated service to the country.
"I have absolute confidence that the soldiers are innocent of all allegations and we would prove it in the course of the trial," counsel added.
The soldiers were picked up barely 72 hours after the Human Rights Court, presided over by Ms Charity Irene Danquah, had ordered their immediate release from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) custody.
On December 15, 2009, the court ordered the release of the five after defence lawyers had argued that their clients' continued detention was a flagrant abuse of their human rights, as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution, especially when the BNI failed to give a tangible reason for their continued detention.
Upholding submissions of defence counsel, the court held that it was wrong for the BNI to keep the soldiers at an undisclosed place for more than 48 hours without a court order and without telling the soldiers which offence they were being held for.
The five were picked up between November 12 and 14, 2009 to an undisclosed location, prompting their spouses to file an application for habeas corpus. Habeas corpus, a Latin phrase, is a legal action through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention or that of another person.
The application was expected to be heard on December 2, 2009, but the state secured the remand of the soldiers on December 1, 2009 at the Accra Circuit Court.
But the court disapproved of the action of the BNI and said it was unfortunate for the BNI to claim it did not know it was unlawful to continuously detain the accused without a court order.