... Explosion on Cape-Coast court premises OVER ONE FULL year after libel action had been initiated against Mr. Isaac Edumadze, the Central Regional Minister, matters came to an explosive head when the claimant, Nana Kofi Coomson made an appearance following a court order only to be told that the case had been adjourned to December 8, 2004, a day after the parliamentary and presidential elections.
This was the first time Kofi Coomson was experiencing a role reversal after enduring upwards of 35 cases against him ranging from ordinary civil libel to seditious libel, and according to a highly charged Coomson, this is a test case on the administration of justice as it addresses concerns of 'ordinary men like me'.
Coomson who made his appearance with one other editor was alerted by reporters who had earlier positioned themselves in the court premises that counsel for Mr. Edumadze, Mr. Joseph Ebow Dawson, a well known and renowned legal brain had instructed an elderly junior in his chambers Mr. Badu Prah to come and adjourn the case. Kofi who has just arrived in the country for the case from the United Kingdom where he has been studying was visibly disturbed as he moved from court to court trailing his counsel till they ended up in the office of the registrar.
In the presence of five journalists mostly from the Chronicle, his lawyer presented a petition pleading with the registrar to consider the merit of the case and the inconvenience being caused to his client.
His petition which was handwritten noted that if the judge who fixed the case for October 20th knew he would be going on vacation he would obviously have refrained from fixing a date that he knew he would not be available as a vacation judge since he had already gone on vacation.
The case had not been heard so it could be heard by another judge, he added, therefore it was perfectly possible to send it to another judge to avert the perception and suspicion that his client was already nursing about the incredible and miraculous coincidence of events and the choice of December 8 as the next hearing date.
It turned out the court clerks; one Sule and Sebastian Cudjoe had written the date of December 8th on the docket without the concurrence or knowledge of the counsel for the claimant.
The promise to go straight to the Chief Justice in Accra to complain about the seeming abuse of the court process was not to be as the registrar Mr. John Brobbey issued a new date and transferred the case to court one to be heard by Mr. Justice Boateng.
The case was first filed on 18 May 2003 before the Supervising High Court judge Mr. Justice K.K. Acquaye.
At some point during the case, the judge after listening to the merits of the pleadings from both lawyers took a hint from counsel for the claimant that they were willing to settle out of court if Edumadze would make the necessary moves. The honourable judge gave Edumadze 48 hours to seek audience with Kofi Coomson who had made a quick dash to the country for the case and academic research and come back. Upon the prodding from his lawyers, he delayed his trip back to UK to wait for Edumadze. It never came on and Mr. Coomson returned to UK.
Mr. Acquaye later declined jurisdiction on the matter saying that he had a personal relationship with the Minister who is also a Member of Parliament. The case was thereafter transferred to court 4 before Nr. Justice B.O. Tetteh. At the last sitting Mr. Coomson was expected to make a statement before the court, but he was still in UK and could not make it in Ghana as other matters impeded his trip back on time. Though both Edumadze and his usual court representative on this matter Mr. Paa Lewis Ankrah, former stringer of The Chronicle and now a lieutenant of the Cape Coast constituency office of the New Patriotic Office (NPP) were not in court, a date was fixed by the judge 20th October. This was communicated to Kofi Coomson who put off his studies and travelled well in time to come in deference to the court date and prosecute the case.
Mr. Isaac Edumadze had gone on radio, Peace FM, Accra and said publicly that Coomson had taken bribe from a politician to build a hotel in Takoradi following a publication written by two reporters of The Chronicle Messrs Dominic Jale and Othello Garblah that Edumadze had built a c1billion mansion.
When the news got to Kofi who was in UK, and he listened to the tape to ascertain for himself, he ordered the libel action seeking a recantation, apologies and damages.
His lawyers in their statement of defence of January 29,2004 simply denied everything and pleaded in paragraph 5 of their statement that 'the defendant (Edumadze) avers that he was commenting on a matter of national and public interest.'