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12.05.2006 General News

Rawlings stirs controversy in court

By Heritage
Rawlings stirs controversy in court
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The trial Judge, Justice Baffoe Bonnie asked the former president who stood up together with the accused persons to either sit down or walk out of the court. But Mr. Rawlings insisted he has the right to be in the court.

Judge: Please sit
Rawlings: I have a back problem
Judge: then please go out
Rawlings: But I have the right to be here

It all started when the prosecutor sitting behind asked the accused persons to variously enter their pleas.

The former president who was sitting behind his wife, Nana stood up with the accused persons as if he was one of them.

Justice Baffoe Bonnie who was watching proceedings closely asked Mr. Rawlings to sit down, since he was not on trial. But the former president said he has back problems and so was finding it difficult sitting down. The judge therefore asked him to walk out of the court room, but curious to follow the trial of his wife, the former president stepped aside and stood among police personnel and some reporters who were standing in the middle roll of the room in the packed courtroom.

Mr. Rawlings stood throughout the proceedings even during a ten-minute break, which saw the judge cooling off in his air-conditioned office.

Mrs. Rawlings also asked for neck support to enable her stand throughout the entire duration of the proceedings even though the Attorney General, Joe Ghartey had sought the court’s permission to enable the former first couple sit down.

However, two of the accused persons, Georgina Okaitey could not stand and therefore sat down after about 20 minutes of daring to stand.

Miss Sherry Ayitey, a closed associate of Mrs. Rawlings and an accused in the case, incurred the wrath of the judge when in an answer to one of the charges against them said: this is real justice”

The judge then stated that he decided to overlook her behaviour and advised her that she would be doing herself a great disservice if she continued to behave that way.

The nine accused persons; Emmanuel Agbodo, former executive secretary of the Divestiture Implementation Committee, Thomas Benson Owusu, former accountant of the DIC, Kwame Peprah, former finance minister and chairman of the DIC, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, president of the 31st December Women’s Movement and chairperson, Caridem Development Company Limited.

The rest are Sherry Ayittey, Managing Director of Caridem, George Mould, Director, Caridem, Larry Adjetey, Director/Secretary, Caridem and Caridem Development Company Limited.

When the case was called all the accused persons except Thomas Benson were present in court. The presiding judge has therefore issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

Five of the accused persons, Emmanuel Agbodo, Sherry Ayittey, Georgina Okaitey, George Mould and Larry Adjetey had earlier pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Counsel for Nana Konadu, Tony Lithur however raised objections to the charges preferred against his client. He accused that the charges are not based on section 179 a of Act 29 of the criminal code which talks about causing financial loss to the state.

He submitted that section 179 (1) only deals with physical property and therefore loss, damage and injury is inferable but it is rather section 179 (a) (3) that talks about causing financial loss to the state.

Counsel called for sufficient evidence in order not to prejudice and misinform the public about the nature of the charges against the accused so as not to substantiate mistrust and miscarriage of justice under Act 19 of the 1992 Constitution.

He said the charges are misinformed and contains prejudices, which should not be struck out.

The Attorney General said the objections were misconceived and intended to put dust into the eyes of the court and the people of Ghana.

Quoting section 91 Act 29 and page 30 of the criminal proceedings as well section 1129 of Act 30, 179 a (1) to support his claims, he said if it becomes necessary they would not hesitate to add section 179 a (3). He therefore pleased the court to throw out the application.

The judge threw out the application.