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General News of Friday, 20 March 2020


Opuni-Agongo case: Judge’s abrupt suspension of trial raises eyebrow

Justice Honyenuga on Thursday, adjourned sitting to 31st March Justice Honyenuga on Thursday, adjourned sitting to 31st March

Justice Clemence Honyenuga, the trial judge in the ongoing case against former COCOBOD boss, Dr. Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, was forced to suspend sitting whilst he was about to rule on an application before him.

According to the judge, he could not continue with the case on Thursday, March 19, 2020, because he had to meet a medical appointment.

Justice Clemence Honyenuga subsequently adjourned sitting to 31st March, after the disclosure which came barely 30 minutes into the hearing of a stay of proceedings filed by lawyers of Dr. Opuni.

The trial judge who has been accused of being politically biased whilst sitting on what the accused believes is a politically motivated case has refused to recuse himself.

Lawyer Samuel Cudjoe, the lead counsel for Dr. Opuni, is at the Appeal’s Court to get the Chief Justice to remove Justice Honyenuga from the case and reassign same to another because, he said, the trial judge has endorsed the re-election bid of President Akufo-Addo.

“Your statement that Ghanaians should give the government another victory in 2020 qualifies for a bias [comment],” Mr. Cudjoe had told the court on Monday.

Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, who is a Court of Appeal judge sitting in as addition High Court judge has since been recommended by President Akufo-Addo for promotion to the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, when the court sat on March 16, Justice Honyenuga’s attention was drawn to the motion but declined a request by lawyer Cudjoe to rescue himself, and therefore continued to hear the case.

The lawyers for Dr. Opuni were therefore compelled to go back to the Appeal’s Court to appeal the ruling.

“My Lord we have filed an appeal against your lordship ruling on the 16th of March 2020 and we have followed it with a motion for stay of proceedings which has been slated for the 26th of this month. We, therefore, pray that this proceeding is adjourned to await the determination,” lawyer Cudjoe told the court on Thursday.

Mr. Nutifafa Nutsukpui, stand-in lead counsel for the second and third accused persons – Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Ltd - concurred with Mr. Cudjoe and asked the court to stay proceedings.

But the Attorney General, represented by Principal State Attorney, Stella Ohene Appiah, vehemently objected to the stay of proceedings.

“My Lord the mere filing of application does not call for stay of proceedings. Besides counsel for 2nd and 3rd accused is the one doing the cross-examination and he has not filed anything,” she argued.

“My Lord this is unnecessarily going to delay the already-delayed trial,” she stated and prayed the court to go on with “business of today” by continuing and finishing cross-examination for third prosecution witness, Dr. Yaw Adu-Ampomah who already has a suspended perjury case around his neck.

Justice Clemence Honyenuga had to step in as both sides were putting forth their arguments for and against the application to stay proceedings, on medical grounds.

“By court upon hearing the learned counsel for first accused and second and third accused, and upon further hearing the learned Principal State Attorney. It is my candid opinion that filing of motion does not constitute stay, however, I have a medical appointment this morning and so I am unable to sit this morning.”

Though many who were in court conceded the need for everyone to take issues about the health seriously, some were curious why the judge decided to start the case in the first place knowing very that the case would not travel more than 30 minutes as against the previous sittings which lasted not less than two hours.

The court adjourned sitting to be reconvened on March 31.

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