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General News of Wednesday, 27 January 1999

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Court dismisses editors motion to abort trial

Accra (Greater Accra) 27 Jan. '99

An Accra circuit court, yesterday dismissed a motion filed by two editors asking it to abort their trial on a charge of publishing articles likely to injure the reputation of the country.

The court, presided over by Mr Victor Ofoe, ruled that the three alleged public statements made by President Jerry John Rawlings, on the subject matter of the case, which the accused described as "prejudicial", cannot hold because of the President's Constitutional immunity.

The editors, Kofi Coomson, editor-in-chief of the "Ghanaian Chronicle" and Eben Quarcoo, former editor of the "Free Press" have pleaded not guilty.

The accused, the prosecution said had published in their newspapers that the NDC Government was dealing in narcotic drugs and that it was using the proceeds to purchase arms which it would have used to destablise the country if the party had lost the 1996 general elections.

In the motion, the editors asked the court to "abort the trial and acquit and discharge them because of the alleged statements made by the President''.

Giving reasons for the ruling, the court said there are provisions in the 1992 constitution which give the Executive immunity, even though, some of the statements referred to might be prejudicial.

The judge quoted legal authorities to buttress his ruling that judges sitting alone could not be easily influenced by statements made by the Executive.

He said judges are committed to their oath to discharge their duties without fear or favour.

The court indicated that it is only trial by jury that newspaper reports or public statements by persons in official higher positions could influence.

Mr Martin Amidu, Deputy Attorney-General, objected to the motion on the grounds that it has no merit and that it was a ploy by the defence to delay the case.