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Press Review | Nov 26, 2004

Protecting Our Rights As Citizens – Call For Solidarity

C. K. Ebbin

We wish to draw the public's attention to the ordeal of Pastor Charles Gollu of the Life Worship Centre.

Pastor Gollu lives in the village of Supomu-Dunkwa in Shama. As far as we know, he is not an active member of any Political Party. Around 9 November 2004 some one pasted an NPP parliamentary poster on Pastor Gollu's window without his permission. Pastor Gollu removed the poster.

The NPP Parliamentary candidate Hon. Angelina Baiden-Amissah reported this to the Police. The Police arrested Gollu on 12 November, kept him in custody in Sekondi until 14 November charged him under Section 296(3) of the Criminal Code and released him on bail. The Police charged Gollu under Section 296 (3) of the Criminal Code, which says that any one who “wilfully defaces any public lawful notice, or removes the same from any place where it is lawfully affixed” is liable to pay a fine not exceeding C200,000.00.

This is a bogus charge. A political party poster is not a “public document” like a “Notice of Polls” or a “Public Health Notice”. A political party poster is a private advert. Section 296 (3) does not apply. The NPP pasted this poster on Pastor Gollu's window not in a public place. They pasted it without Gollu's permission, which is a crime! Section 296(4) of the same Criminal Code states that any one who “affixes or attempts to affix any placard, paper, or thing on any building, wall, fence, pillar, or post” .. “without the consent of the owner or occupier” is liable to a fine of C200,000.00!

Gollu attended court at SAEMA on Thursday 18 November but did not hear his case called. Strangely, on Friday 19 November the Police rearrested him on the orders of the Magistrate, Mr. Tsatsu Azumah. He remained in police custody until 22 November when he pleaded not guilty to the charge before the court. His lawyer and another senior lawyer who spoke as a friend of the court argued that the charge against him was bogus and asked the court to dismiss it outright. The Prosecutor never challenged this argument. Somehow, perversely the judge scheduled the case for 9 December and ruled that Pastor Gollu should remain in custody until that date! The judge argued that Pastor Gollu's imprisonment is necessary to forestall violence at Supomu-Dunkwa during the elections! However, the Prosecution made no such allegation and never requested further custody. The judge also suggested that Pastor Gollu's Landlord is a staunch NPP supporter and recommended that Pastor Gollu vacate the premises for that reason!

This is an abuse of the legal system. Why did the Police bring bogus charges against Gollu? Why did the Police not charge the NPP organisers? Why did they not advise the MP to caution her organisers to respect the law and citizens' rights? Why should Gollu spend 22 days in cells before trial for an offence, which has a maximum sentence of only C200,000?

Pastor Gollu's mistreatment falls into a pattern of abuse. In the 2004 Shama parliamentary race, the NPP candidate has consistently threatened to use the security apparatus against her opponents. She has also threatened physical harm to several NRP organisers including Mr. Victor Bessa a teacher at ICCES who is also an important NRP organiser. Hitherto, we have ignored her insults, threats and provocations and tried to focus the campaign on the issues that are important for the development of Shama and Ghana. We have several times challenged the MP to a public debate on these issues.

No citizen of Ghana should suffer incarceration just to calm the fears of insecure politicians. Citizens should not be intimidated into towing any politician's line. The safety and freedom of each citizen is more important than the ambitions of the candidates and parties contesting the election. MPs have no right to intimidate citizens with the police and courts. Indeed MPs have a duty to ensure that officers of the law deal fairly with all cases and respect the law. We will no longer tolerate this abuse of office on the part of the MP! We will fight to build a politics of open debate, of ideas and programmes and the free choice of the electorate.

We call on all the people of Shama to join us in a show of solidarity for Pastor Gollu and his family:

• We are launching a Legal Support Fund to pay Pastor Gollu's legal fees and help support his family during this crisis. From now until his release from custody, NRP will collect contributions at every campaign event we organise. We invite other Political Parties and organisations to do the same.

• We call on the people of Shama to show their rejection of these scare tactics by wearing mourning clothes until Pastor Gollu returns to his family and by phoning and “texting” radio stations to condemn this abuse of power.

• We are will shortly announce a specific protest event to be held in defence of our democratic rights and in Pastor Gollu's support to be held in Shama.

Join us in establishing democratic principles in Ghana. Let us ensure that no politician will ever dare in the future to take our lives and liberties for granted in this disgraceful manner.

C. K. Ebbin Secretary, Constituency Working Committee National Reform Party Shama.

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