Ghana: Controversial discharge of pro-government militia members reported in Ghana

Accra, Ghana (PANA) - The controversial discharge last Wednesday of eight members of a pro-government militia group that stormed an court in Ghana's second largest city, Kumasi, and freed 13 colleagues who are being tried for a violent action was one of the main stories reported in Ghana this week.

The eight members of the Delta Force militia were arrested on 10 April in Kumasi, a stronghold of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), when they allegedly stormed the court to free their colleagues who had been remanded into prison custody.

They were charged with "Disturbing of Court" and "Resisting Arrest and Rescuing."

The 13 are being tried for forcibly vandalising the office of the Ashanti Regional Security Coordinator, Mr George Adjei, and throwing him out of the office because they claimed he was not part of the people in the region who worked to bring the party to power in last December's election.

"Controversy", was the headline of state-owned Graphic newspaper which reported that eight members of the Delta Force, a vigilante group affiliated to the NPP, who were arrested and charged for allegedly aiding 13 colleagues to escape lawful custody, had been discharged.

It said the Kumasi Circuit Court, presided over by Mrs Patricia Amponsah, discharged the eight following advice from the Attorney-General (A-G’s) Office to the police to discontinue the case because there was no evidence to support the arrest and charges levelled against them.

The Graphic said when the case was called on Wednesday, the prosecutor, Assistant Commissioner of Police Okyere Darko, told the court that the A-G’s Department had asked that the charges be withdrawn for lack of evidence, and submitted the document detailing the reasons to the judge.

As expected, the developments at the court have come under severe criticism from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

In a story with the headline, "Release of Delta 8: Minority says it’s threat to justice, Govt calls for investigation", the Graphic reported that the Minority in Parliament had condemned the decision by the Attorney-General’s (A-G’s) Office to discontinue the trial of the "infamous Delta Force members", and described the decision as "a travesty of justice and lack of respect for the Judiciary".

It therefore, asked the A-G to reverse the "cancerous exercise of discretion" for the accused to be re-arraigned.

At a press conference in Parliament House in Accra the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said it was the expectation of the Minority that the Delta Force members would have been duly cited for contempt of court by now and successfully prosecuted.

Therefore, he said, the curtailment of the trial was "a slap in the face of the administration of justice, the rule of law and the Judiciary".

He said the exercise of discretionary powers to curtail the trial by the A-G “is not only arbitrary, capricious, bias but partisan”.

Mr Iddrisu asked President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to demonstrate his pledge to uphold the rule of law by directing the continuation of the trial.

“We refer to the action of the A-G as bizarre because this is a government that claims to be an adherent of the rule of law. The Executive has a duty to uphold the tenets of the Constitution and in particular demonstrate in conduct and action its respect for the other arms of government, particularly the Judiciary.

The Minority Leader said the decision by the A-G to discontinue the trial was a confirmation of the claim by leading members of the ruling NPP at the time of the lawless action by the Delta Force that the culprits would be set free.

Another opposition party, the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), described as "unfortunate and sad" the discharge of eight Delta Force members, the Graphic reported.

In a story with the headline, "Discharge of 8 Delta Force members unfortunate — PPP" the newspaper reported that the PPP said what took place at the Kumasi Circuit Court was "a blot on the conscience of the country’s democratic dispensation".

Meanwhile, the government, in a statement signed by the Minister of Information, Mr Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, said the A-G’s  Department was investigating circumstances under which a Principal State Attorney in Kumasi decided, "without recourse to advice from higher authority on a matter of high public interest of this nature", to drop charges against persons arrested in connection with disturbances in a Kumasi Circuit Court.

“Preliminary investigations suggest that the decision was taken without recourse even to the Director of Public Prosecutions  and may amount to a breach of internal procedures on matters of this nature," the government statement said.

“While the department awaited the full results of the investigations, we will like to reiterate our commitment to ensuring that the rule is applied at all times and persons found culpable of any breaches that bring the work and commitment of the department into disrepute will be sanctioned and the appropriate remedies adopted in the interest of the Republic,” the statement added.

The Ghana Bar Association (GBA), also in a statement, said the discharge of the eight members of the vigilante group on the basis of lack of evidence was a threat to rule of law in the country.

The GBA expressed disquiet about the development, noting the discharge “would not signify an end of the matter,” and asked the Police to “thoroughly investigate the matter in its entirety”.

“We call upon the police to interview the court officials, lawyers and litigants who were in court on the day in order to bring the perpetrators to justice,” the statement said.

For the GBA, “justice will not be served if the discharge of the accused persons ends the matter”.

It thus reiterated its call to the Police to ensure that “all persons who played any role whatsoever in the attack on the court are arrested, duly charged and prosecuted”.
-0- PANA MA 20May2017

20 may 2017 08:06:06

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