Accra, March 2, GNA - Parliament on Thursday agreed to uphold the general legal principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty and therefore decided to allow Mr Eric Amoateng, NPP MP for Nkoranza North the required time to defend himself.
Moving the motion to adopt the report of the Privileges Committee, Mr Freddie Blay, Chairman of the Committee said the wheel of justice grind slowly so it is necessary to allow due process to take its course in order that the dignity of Mr Amoateng and the House would be preserved.
Mr Amoateng is currently in custody facing charges of unlawfully importing drugs into the United States.
Mr Blay said the Committee observed that Mr Amoateng has been refused bail by the court trying him and so cannot attend sittings of the House "due to his transitory status in the US and the nature of the case made against him."
"There is the need to allow the judicial process of adversarial contest in the US to take its full course since the judicial process may require a considerable amount of time to conclude."
"Mr Amoateng has hired the services of Mr Denis Adjei-Brenyah as a solicitor and that the letter written to the Speaker by Mr Amoateng has been confirmed by Ghana's Mission in the US as authentic."
Mr Blay said the Committee also agreed that in the interim, the House may refrain from taking decisions prejudicial to the status of Mr Amoateng as a member of Ghana's Parliament until the determination by the courts of his guilt or innocence.
He urged the House through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to impress upon the Ghana's Mission in the US to closely monitor the situation and keep the House informed of any developments relating to the case in and out of court.
The Committee also urged the Ministry to impress on the Mission to give the necessary lawful consular assistance to Mr Amoateng without prejudice to the case just as any other Ghanaian in similar circumstances may be entitled to.
Contributing to the debate on the motion earlier, Mr Joseph Aidoo, Western Regional Minister and also NPP MP for Amenfi East said Mr Amoateng has more time at his disposal to clear his name and urged the House to give him the chance to do so.
He said Mr Amoateng sought permission from the Speaker before leaving for the US and that; "his absence does not mean we can sit here and prematurely decide his fate."
Mr Charles Hodogbey, NDC-North Tongu said the legal system on drugs in the US takes a very long time to conclude and wondered if by 2008 the case is still on, what would happen to Mr Amoateng's seat. He also wondered whether Mr Amoateng would still receive his salary until the case ends, at the expense of the taxpayer.
Mr Francis Agbotse, NDC-Ho West urged the House to vote for the report, saying; "if Mr Amoateng win's the case he could claim damages from his accusers so he should be given the time to defend himself."