The Chairman of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC), Justice K.E. Amua-Sekyi, yesterday, June 14 sacked a witness who appeared before the Commission, Riad Houzaifeh, a committed buddy of former President Rawlings, from the witness stand (seat) at the Commission's sitting in Accra.
The Chairman's decision followed Riad's persistent recalcitrant attitude in pursuing matters that clearly fall outside the matter which he had told the Commission he want to address.
Riad Houzaifeh, who says he worked with the PNDC as an officials of the office of the President, was at the NRC to cross-examine the Editor-In-Chief of the Crusading Guide, Mr Kweku Baako Junior on statements he (Kweku) had made about him (Riad), when Mr Baako appeared before the Commission as a witness to the statement by Christin Gokah on the arrest, torture and killing of his brother, Mawuli Dra Gokah and five others.
After the cross-examination, Mr Houzaifeh took the witness stand to give his own evidence on the matter he had requested the Commission for permission to question Kweku Baako on.
It was during his evidence that Mr Houzaifeh began to stray and make fresh allegations to the effect that the audio-visual tapes on the extra-judicial killings of Lance Corporal Sakodie Addo and others was in the possession of Mr Kweku Baako and some current government officials.
Justice Amua-Sekyi interjected and told Mr Houzaifeh that the former President, J.J. Rawlings has already come before the Commission to admit that he had that tapes and that he had given it to his (Rawlings's) former body guard.
“Mr Baako and some government officials have the tape,” Mr Houzaifeh persisted, raising his voice. “They have edited it to manipulate the evidence”, he yelled. The Chairman of the NRC then called Riad's attention to the fact that what he was saying had nothing to do with the matter on which he (Riad) had requested to examine Mr Baako. But Riad Houzaifeh would not relent. When Justice Amua-Sekyi asked him to leave that matter and go on with his evidence, Mr Houzaifeh, for the second time accused the chairman of being unfair to him.
It was at this point that the chairman told Mr Houzaifeh “please leave the chair”. Mr Houzaifeh proceeded to protest, but Justice Amua-Sekyi also persisted at this point “You've not come here to make allegations against others”, the Chairman told Houzaifeh, adding “you have answered the matter that brought you here.”
Mr Houzaifeh persisted trying to go into exchanges with the Chairman for the NRC, but the latter put his foot down. “We've heard enough from you”, Justice Amua-Sekyi said with finality. At this point, Riad Houzaifeh obliged and vacated the witness stand. During the initial cross-examination, Mr Houzaifeh took Kweku Baako through some formalities that made the Editor-in-Chief reveal that Riad used to come to his (Baako's) father in their house.
Kweku Baako added that he had seen Mr Houzaifeh twice at the residence of the ex-President and several times in discotheques in the 1970's. In answer to that when he was giving his own evidence, Mr Houzaifeh told the Commission that he (Riad) has a son and that he was responsible and would not go to a disco. Mr Houzaifeh also questioned Mr Baako on a vehicle the latter had alleged Riad used during the PNDC era. “You said I used a BMW”. “I said you used a vehicle”, Mr Baako answered. I have gone back to check and it was a Chevrolet Covete with registration Number 9500.
I've seen you drive it a couple of times,” Mr Baako added. I've seen the ex-President drive it a couple of times and it belonged go Frank Gokah.”
While being led by the Commission's Counsel in his evidence, Mr Houzaifeh denied ever driving a Chevrolet. “It was given to me not to use it”, Riad Houzaifeh told the NRC, stressing “it was kept in my custody.” By who? Asked the NRC's Counsel. By the Chief of Staff at the Castle. He asked me to keep it”, Houzaifeh disclosed.
Counsel: Did you drive it?
Houzaifeh: No, he left the keys with me to warm it up, not to use it.
Counsel: “For how long was the car in your custody.” Houzaifeh: Three years.
Counsel: Did you have to take it around town to warm it.
Yes, answered Riad Houzaifeh. There was laughter in the Reconciliation Hall. Mr Houzaifeh also examined Mr Baako extensively on the Editor's assertion that he (Riad) came to Usher Fort with an operation squad to film torture and interrogation sessions.
“I have never filmed anything in a prison. And I don't know Mr Baako except to see him on TV and here today, insisted Mr Houzaifeh”. I was in front to my cell and saw you come in with the squad, Kweku Baako told the Commission.
The first time Mr Houzaifeh collided with the Chairman was when he wanted to bring up the name of a current Minister he alleged is in the tape in question.
Mr Houzaifeh asked Kweku Baako to name the Minister. But the latter declined and Riad insisted. I will not let him answer that, ruled Justice Amua-Sekyi. Ask your next question. After that the NRC Chairman compelled Mr Baako to answer another question. Then Mr Houzaifeh asked Kweku Baako about a certain Ofosu Tata, who the Editor said told him about the execution of Lance Corporal Sarkodie Addo.
When Mr Baako started to pull out his documents to give him a comprehensive answer Mr Houzaifeh complained to the Commission that Mr Baako was taking all my time. You asked the question, Justice Amua-Sekyi replied; if you are not interested in the answer ask your next one.