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08.07.2004 General News

Victim of "Apollo 568" - Ex-Graphic boss

By GNA

Accra, July 8, GNA - A former Chief Executive of the Daily Graphic, Mr Mathais Ofori, on Thursday said his appointment was terminated in 1972 because of his intolerance of colleagues who did not take their work serious and reported to work as they pleased.

"After working for 20 years with the corporation, a dispatch rider from the castle brought my dismissal letter one weekend whilst on duty'' adding that they did not give him a pesewa.

Giving evidence before the National Reconciliation Commission in Accra, Mr Ofori said he was a victim of "Apollo 568", which affected a lot of workers during the Busia regime.

He said his problems started when the Progress Party (PP) government came into power and when one Mr Antwi then working with the Graphic was posted to the New Times Corporation and who thought Mr Ofori had undermined him.

Mr Ofori said after the PP came into power, the appointment of management of the New Times Corporation was terminated because they were believed to be working in favour of the previous government.

He said though the Committee appointed to oversee the work of the New Times Corporation initially asked him to see to the management of the Corporation, he said he could not leave Graphic because he was supervising the installation of a new printing machine.

Mr Ofori said Mr Gyau Kyem, then Features Editor, also wrote a libellous front-page article about Mr Komla Agbeli Gbedema, leader of the National Alliance of Liberals, adding that, he was subsequently dismissed.

He said though management created a regional office at the Central Region for Mr Gyau Kyem, he did not take the work serious, adding that he went to work as he pleased.

Mr. Ofori said it was a regulation that when a worker failed to report to duty for 10 days without permission he was dismissed, adding that as the Chief Executive he reported him to the board and he was dismissed.

Witness said he was intimidated because of these decisions he made, adding that those affected managed to have him dismissed. He said it was unfair to be treated that way and appealed to the NRC to recommend him for compensation.

Mr Justice Yaw Appau, a High Court judge in his evidence to the Commission said he ordered the release of one Madam Akua Akorsa who had been detained in Sunyani for allegedly dealing in petroleum products. He was corroborating evidence by Madam Akorsa who had already appeared before the Commission to the effect that she had been impoverished due to the seizure of her goods by students and soldiers in Sunyani in 1982.

Mr Justice Appau said he was the Student's Taskforce Coordinator for the Brong Ahafo Region, which Flt. Lt. Rawlings called upon to assist in the evacuation of cocoa after the coup.

Then a final year student of the Ghana Law School, he said he visited the districts to see the activities of the task forces when he met Madam Akorsah.

Mr Justice Appau said the taskforce informed him that they seized and sold Madam Akorsah's kerosene, gas oil and diesel, adding that they had detained her because she was illegally dealing in the products. He said he was in no position to recover the proceeds from the sale of the goods but rebuked them for arresting the woman because she was rather helping the rural folks.

Mr Justice Appau said he released and comforted the woman, adding that, had it not been for his intervention they would have sent her to the regional tribunal where she would be prosecuted.

Mr Alex Okunnor, a Journalist, on Thursday called for the prosecution of people who were in power and whose names were mentioned for alleged human rights abuses, after the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) had completed its work.

" I don't think most of them should be forgiven. We can't forgive everything to set a precedent for any human rights abuse", Mr Okunnor said. He was giving evidence at the Commission in Accra.

"God never ordained anybody to kill or torture another person. The people at the helm of affairs must be brought to justice, to court, to face the full rigours of the law", he said.

Mr Okunnor told the Commission that he enrolled for a course at the University of Ghana in 1986, after he had stopped pursuing a course at the Essex University, London.

He had employment that same period with the Ministry of Information, through assistance of Nana Ato Dadzie, then Chief of Staff just as the time he had the admission at the University of Ghana.

He said Nana Ato Dadzie, an old school mate, introduced him to Mr Kofi Totobi Quakyi, then Secretary of Information, and he had the job. Witness said Mr Quakyi tasked him to establish a propaganda paper similar to La Prensa of Nicaragua, to counteract the anti-government writings of the then Catholic Standard.

Witness said Nana Ato Dadzie asked him to see Mrs Valerie Sackey of the Castle Information Bureau, and Mrs Sackey told him his services were no longer needed, but he was not paid for his two weeks services. Witness said while on a visit to his granduncle, Reverend Aniagyei of the Church of Pentecost at Nankese in the Eastern Region, he was accosted and confronted by operatives of the Civil Defence Organisation (CDO) and the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR). They accused him of being a spy because he spoke with a foreign accent. They did not spare him even after he had spoken Ga, Twi, and Frafra, all Ghanaian languages.

The operatives stripped him to his pants, and sent him to the Nankese Police Station, where the Inspector in Charge detained him overnight and transferred him to the Suhum Police Station.

Mr Okunnor said Superintendent Essah, then in charge of the Suhum Police Station only accepted that he was not a spy, and released him when he showed him a copy of that day's Daily Graphic newspaper in which there was a picture of him in it as an official of the Ministry of Information in the company of Mr Kwamena Ahwoi, a top government official.

Witness said after Mr Essah had released him, he asked him to report to Nana Ato Dadzie back in Accra.

While in Accra, Witness said he got on a car at the Castle Traffic Light to Nungua to visit some relations, but it turned out that the other passengers were security operatives.

When he got off at Nungua Channel Five Bus Stop, the other passengers also got off.

One of them ordered him at gunpoint to take them to the CDO office, which was just nearby, and when he told them they could go on their own, they accused him of being a CIA spy, who had come into the country with the Gokas to stage a coup to oust the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) government.

Witness said the men forcibly took him at gunpoint to the CDO office, and made him to frog-march.

They threatened to kill him if he dared resist. The operatives branded a sympathiser who suggested that they took him to the Gondar Barracks as a dissident, made him join him, beat them well and sent both of them to the Castle Guardroom.

The beatings continued and they were later separated, adding that he was shaved with a broken bottle, and detained for two weeks. During the two weeks, informants who pretended to be organizing church service in the guardroom, tried in vain to extract information from him. Witness said he felt very weak, fell unconscious one day and was sent to the Police Hospital.

The soldiers who had brought him to the hospital lied to the doctor that he was suffering from asthma, but the doctor said he had no asthma, and asked them to take him back.

Mr Okunnor said he had no money to pick a vehicle and he crawled on the orders of the soldiers from the hospital to Danquah Circle, a distance of three hundred metres.

The soldiers only got a car for him after an intervention of a woman who suggested they hired a car on credit. He said he took driver and the soldiers to a relative at Osu, and the relative paid for the fare.

He was later taken to the Castle Guardroom, where the soldiers continued to torture him.

The soldiers threatened that he and the man who had intervened for him at Nungua would be added to the Gokas and tried for treason. He said during his stay with the Ministry of Information, one Lt Tehn Addy took him to the office of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in Accra, he declined to get involved with the activities of that organization when he was given an offer to work with that organization because it involved espionage activities.

He said he was never charged for spying despite the brutalities on that allegation.

Reverend Charles Palmer-Buckle, a Member of the Commission who said he was then Acting Editor of the Catholic Standard told the Witness that the Catholic Standard had then been banned at that time. Witness replied that founding of the anti-propaganda paper might be for damage control of the effects of the Catholic Standard. Witness told the Commission that he exiled to London after his release, and returned in 2000.

Meanwhile, the Commission has adjourned the cross-examination of Dr Mathew Tetteh, an industrial scientist by Naval Commander Baafour Assassie Gyimah, to Monday, July 12, following an application for adjournment by Baafour Gyimah

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