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20.01.2004 Regional News

Driver says soldiers set ablaze his vehicle

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Ho, Jan. 20, GNA - Lieutenant-General Emmanuel Erskine, a member of the National Reconciliation Commission on Tuesday observed that it was regrettable that civilians found pleasure in the molestations meted out to their colleagues by soldiers during military insurrections in the country.

He said instead of showing sympathy and protestations, civilians supported and applauded such incidents.

Gen. Erskine made the observation when Mr Robert Kwame Kpai, a Driver recounted how his employer's Toyota vehicle was set ablaze by soldiers at the Ho Civic Centre on June 16, 1979 because a quantity of leaves suspected to be Indian Hemp was found hidden in a passenger's luggage during a search at a barrier near the Volta Barracks. Gen. Erskine said the punishment meted out to the driver was harsh when the perpetrator of the crime had owned up.

Mr Kpai said he and the passenger were given 24 lashes each in public and forced to look into the sun for 15 minutes as a preliminary punishment.

He said they were put before a "Peoples Court," presided over by one Lieutenant Kwame, who sentenced the passenger to three years' imprisonment.

Mr Kpai said he was sent to the Ho Central Market and given another round of 24 lashes and asked to clean the public toilet and weed around it for not searching the luggage before taking it on board. He said he was told that, "if the vehicle is yours it has been burnt free but if it is not, then go and replace it", after which he was released.

Earlier, Mr James Yao Adzroe, then 11 years old and son of Mr Sylvester Adzroe, owner of the vehicle said his father became sick as a result of the incident and later developed a mental problem. Mr Adzroe said since his father's vehicle was the only source of income for the upkeep of the family, they (children) could not pursue further education.

He therefore, pleaded with the Commission to assist in the replacement of the vehicle.

Other petitioners included Mr Gilly King Osei, a former Public Relations Officer of the erstwhile Post and Telecommunications Corporation who alleged that he was prematurely retired and was labelled as being mad.

Mr Fred Kwame Baah, who was then a motor spare-parts dealer at Hohoe, said in July 1979 some soldiers, led by a Lieutenant Kwame brutally manhandled and kicked him in the groin resulting in the shrinking of one of his testicles. He said though he was able to father a child since then, his sex drive was adversely affected, adding, "I had forgiven those who were responsible."

Sitting continues on Wednesday. GNA

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