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24.07.2005 Crime & Punishment

Suspect Betrays Himself In Court

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AN alleged armed robber standing trial with Ataa Ayi and two others who said he did not understand Twi, was yesterday tricked into betraying himself at the Accra Fast Track High Court when he responded rightly to the judge's order in Twi that he should stand up.

Counsel for Roger Kobla Agbodogah, alias Rojay, the accused, had told the court that his client was a Togolese and did not understand Twi, a Ghanaian language, but Agbodogah surprisingly threw the packed court into laughter when the judge, Mr Justice P.Baffoe-Bonnie, took everyone by surprise and ordered him in Twi which he obliged.

“ Rojay sori,” the Judge said in Twi which means “Rojay stand up” and the accused astounded the packed court when he stood up.

The judge, who wanted to find out if the accused really did not understand Twi, tricked him into betraying himself that he was telling a lie to the court.

The drama unfolded when the police investigator in the case mounted the witness box to testify. He tendered in evidence the caution and charge statements of the accused person whose counsel objected to them, claiming it was not true that they were translated into Twi for the accused.

Counsel for all the accused persons objected to all the caution and charge statements alleged to have been made by their clients.

Consequently, the court ruled that mini-trials would be conducted next week to determine the admissibility or otherwise of those statements.

Samuel Kwaku Annan, Roger Kobla Agbodogah, Raymond Ameh and Aryee Ayittey, alias Ataa Ayi, are standing trial for allegedly robbing a man of more than ¢70 million at gunpoint at Dzorwulu in Accra on October 14, 2003.

The four, who are jointly charged with conspiracy and robbery, had pleaded not guilty and are on remand.

Detective Sergeant Martin Kwaku Frimpong, the investigator, who had to be recalled from his peacekeeping operation in Sudan to testify, said he knew all the four accused persons because they were involved in an alleged robbery case he investigated.

He said he took caution statements from the accused persons and also visited the scene of the robbery at Dzorwulu.

Sgt Frimpong said he charged two of the accused persons but became indisposed and a corporal he only mentioned as Boateng also charged two others.

According to him, Rojay was arrested by Togolese police and handed over to their Ghanaian counterparts at the Aflao border on November 17, 2003, but since the accused had been mentioned in various robbery cases, he could not take his statement until December 22, 2003.

The witness said Annan was arrested on December 8 that year at Tema and when his statement was being taken, he mentioned the names of the other accused persons, including Amuzu Kiru, now at large, as his accomplices.

The accused, Sgt Frimpong said, also indicated how much he received as his share of the booty.

He said on June 9, 2004, Ameh was arrested at Teshie near Accra and while his caution statement was being taken, he also mentioned the names of the other accused persons as accomplices in the Dzorwulu robbery.

Sgt Frimpong said Ataa Ayi was also arrested at Teshie in February this year and mentioned the names of the other accused persons as accomplices.

“He also told me that his name is Aryee Ayittey, alias Ataa Ayi, and mentioned the aliases of the others,” he stated.

According to him, three of the accused persons were identified at an identification parade but Ataa Ayi was not, rather, Ataa Ayi's victim identified him in the newspapers after his arrest as the one who wielded the rifle during the robbery.

When the investigator tendered in evidence the caution and charge statements of Annan, his counsel objected to them on the grounds that the accused never signed them and that they were taken under extreme duress, and not in the presence of an independent witness.

The prosecution replied that the statements were given voluntarily by the accused and based on that the court ruled to conduct a mini trial to ascertain their admissibility or otherwise after duly marking them as exhibits.

The caution and charge statements of Agbodogah were similarly objected to by his counsel because, according to him, his client never admitted the offence and pleaded an alibi that at the time the crime was committed, he was in Togo.

“These statements were manufactured by the investigator because my client travelled one year before the incident and not in February 2003, as alleged in the statement,” counsel said.

Moreover, counsel said his client could not have signed the statements which were translated into Twi for him because as a Togolese he did not understand Twi.

But the truth was found out after the judge had taken the accused by surprise by asking him in Twi to stand up which he did.

The investigator also said the particulars provided by the accused did not prove helpful to the Togolese authorities to enable them to contact those mentioned in the document.

When the caution and charge statements of Ameh were also tendered in evidence, his counsel objected to them and stated that there was no independent witness present at the time those statements were taken and that they were also extracted from the accused under threat and harm.

Counsel said the accused also filed an alibi that he had travelled to Nigeria at the time the alleged robbery took place in Ghana, but the investigator said the accused could not provide any particulars to prove that, while the only telephone number he gave could not be reached.

Ataa Ayi's counsel also objected to his statement being tendered on the grounds that he did not make them voluntarily in the presence of an independent witness and moreover he also filed an alibi.

Sgt Frimpong said all the alibis were false and intended to throw dust into the 'eyes' of the court.

Mr Justice Baffoe-Bonnie adjourned the case until Monday, to start a mini trial of all the accused persons to determine the admissibility or otherwise of their statements.

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