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General News of Monday, 11 April 2011

Source: GNA

Alleged Mobilla killers before a new judge

Accra, April 11, GNA - The case of the two soldiers who have been accused of murdering Alhaji Issa Mobilla, former Northern Regional Chairman of Convention People's Party (CPP), has now been put before a new judge, Mr Justice Mustapha Habib Logo.

The case was, however, adjourned on Monday because the accused persons were not brought to court and the prosecutor, Ms Pennelope Mamattah, a Principal State Attorney, was indisposed. Mrs Evelyn Keelson, a Senior Attorney, who held Ms Mamattah's brief, prayed for adjournment.

The case was therefore adjourned to May 13. Mr Thaddeus Sory represented the accused persons.

The case has been put before Mr Justice Logo following the March 16, 2011 ruling by the Supreme Court (SC), which declared that Mr Justice Senyo Dzamefe, a Court of Appeal judge, hearing the case of the soldiers, had no jurisdiction to do so.

The SC noted that since Mr Justice Dzamefe's authority was limited to his part heard cases he could not start the trial of the soldiers afresh. The court therefore quashed the trial judge's orders made on December 7 last year and granted an order of certiorari. The soldiers, Corporal Yaw Appiah and Private Eric Modzaka, went to the SC to also seek an order of certiorari quashing the orders of the trial judge on whether or not a juror who had been replaced because he was indisposed should be allowed back after he had recovered from an illness.

The two soldiers filed an order prohibiting Mr Justice Senyo Dzamefe, a Court of Appeal judge, from hearing their case. The state, which was represented by Mr Rexford Wiredu, opposed the action by filed by the soldiers.

Mr Wiredu conceded before the SC that there was no letter from the Chief Justice directing the trial judge to hear the matter after his elevation to the Court of Appeal.

The soldiers were further seeking an order to stay proceeding in the case in so far as the trial judge continued to preside. Corporal Appiah and Private Modzaka, who have denied the offences levelled against them, are on remand.

Their accomplice, Private Seth Goka, is yet to be arrested by the Stat= e. In their grounds of Appeal, the two soldiers contended that the trial judge lacked jurisdiction to continue with the case and make any orders.

According to the soldiers the orders made by the trial judge "were made without jurisdiction" describing them as unconstitutional, null and void.

The soldiers contended that the trial judge, by virtue of his statement, conduct and orders had demonstrated his interest in the case beyond presiding as an independent arbiter.

In an affidavit in support of a motion invoking the supervisory jurisdiction for orders of certiorari and prohibition, the soldiers said on March 17, 2010, they were put before the Fast Track High Court presided over Mr Justice Dzamefe on two charges of conspiracy to murder and murder.

According to them during the course of the trial, Mr Justice Dzamefe was elevated to the Court of Appeal. Under the constitution, the trial judge was 93barred" from presiding over the case and other matters pending at the High Court. He could only preside after the CJ in the exercise of her constitutional powers permitted him to complete all cases partly heard by him before assuming duties as Court of Appeal Judge. In addition he could only do this unless the trial judge had been assigned specially by the Chief Justice to execute specific duties. The soldiers said in May last year, during the trial, one of its jurors was taken ill, thus causing adjournments and the prosecution insisted that the juror should be replaced.

The trial judge granted the prayer of the prosecution although counsel of the defence objected and stated that he (trial judge) should refer the matter to the CJ for direction. On November 26, 2010 they were served with hearing notices to appear in court.

The trial judge after asking the defence and prosecution to approach the bench informed them that the replaced juror had recovered and he was of the view that 93the juror could be brought back for the trial to continue as a partly heard case". The defence counsel, however, objected.

The trial judge then adjourned the matter to December 7, 2010 to rule on the objection of the defence on his continuing to sit over the case as he had been elevated to the Court of Appeal.

On the said date when they arrived at the court, instead of delivering his ruling the judge rather announced to the court that he required the prosecution to file a motion in opposition to enable him to rule on the question as to whether or not the replaced juror should be brought back.

The prosecution complied with the trial judge's request. They contended that the trial judge had no power to make orders in a case pending before the High Court when he had not been appointed by the Chief Justice to conduct the case.

The soldiers said the trial judge also displayed 93clear bias" when he went to question why they were in military custody when he had ordered that they should be sent to prison custody. 11 April 11

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