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Sports News of Friday, 11 April 2003

Source: gna

Court watches video on stadium disaster

An Accra High Court trying six Police Officers, charged with 127 counts of manslaughter, on Thursday watched a video clip of the 9 May Accra Sports Stadium Disaster but could not obtain the required evidence.

Justice Yaw Appau, the trial judge, noted after the video show that it did not contain the necessary elements as a witness had sought to portray. The elements, according to the Judge, were that the camera did capture neither the accused persons nor anyone else giving directions in the form of making signs for the junior Police Officers to fire a weapon or to throw tear gas.

"But in your earlier evidence to this court, you stated that there were a lot of Police Officers, who instructed or commanded their subordinates to fire or throw the canisters," Justice Appau told the Prosecution Witness, Jonas Ahele-Truly, a Television Producer, working with the Metro Television.

Ahele-Truly had earlier told the court that he had seen superior officers of the Police instructing their juniors to fire weapons. The Judge, therefore, demanded to know how many officers gave the instructions.

The accused persons, who had earlier denied the charges, are on a 20 million-cedi bail each with two sureties. The officers on trial are John Asare Naami, Faakyi Kumi, Frank Awuah, Francis Aryee, Benjamin B. Bakomora, all Assistant Superintendents of Police and Chief Superintendent of Police, Koranteng Mintah.

Immediately after the nine-minute video show, which was soundless and watched by the Judge, Jurors, both the Prosecution and Defence teams, the media and a large crowd, Ahele-Truly, who operated the gadgets, was reminded on his former oath and subsequently put in the box.

Leading him in his evidence by Anthony Gyambiby, Principal State Attorney, Ahele-Truly said he saw Chief Superintendent Mintah and Assistant Superintendent Naami in the pictures, but did not see Kumi and Awuah.

He was emphatic that Assistant Superintendent Bakomora was at the stadium, but did not appear in the pictures that were filmed. During cross-examination by Yonny Kulendi, counsel for the first accused, Witness said he was a regular at the stadium that was why he knew that Mintah and Naani were regulars too.

Witness agreed with counsel that in the video, the steps of the stands were not visible, and added, "some of them were not clear." When Kulendi demanded to know why some were not clear, Ahele-Truly explained that at the end of the match there were flood lights, but about 20 minutes after the match the lights went off, for which reason they could not get some of the pictures very clear.

In an answer to a question, witness said when he, as a Producer and his cameraman walked around where the stampede occurred, he heard people screaming, "I am dying, I am dying" at the entrance and also noticed that the gate at that point was locked.

Kulendi at this stage advised Ahele-Truly that he was at the court to assist to establish the truth of the matter, so he should endeavour to answer simple questions correctly. For instance when asked how many times he saw an accused person at the stadium, he replied that the accused was not his friend and so he could not tell.

Also when asked: "You are a Photo Journalist, did you notice any emergency service?" He replied, that he went to cover a match, but not to look around for ambulances. When Kulendi inquired from Witness the cameramen he took to the stadium, he said he went with one cameraman.

Counsel then suggested to Witness that it was by that reason that the only camera, could not focus at one particular point at any particular time. But witness said it depended on the situation at that time that the pictures were being shot.

Ahele-Truly agreed with counsel that "when you focus at a particular time, you are unable to focus at your blank side." When asked if there was anything in photography called "dark stock," Witness said: "That has to do with video." Again, when asked what was called "Junction" in cinematography, Witness said he had not heard of that name, saying there could be other names.