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General News of Wednesday, 30 July 2003

Source: GNA

Stadium Disaster: Policemen Discharged

Accra, July 30 GNA - An Accra High Court on Wednesday acquitted and discharged all the six Police Officers standing trial on 127 counts of manslaughter for their complicity in the May 9 Accra Sports Stadium disaster after a seven-member jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

The officers are John Asare Naami, Edward Faakyi Kumi, Francis Ayittey Aryee, Frank Awu, Benjamin B. Bakomora, all Assistant Superintendents of Police and Chief Superintendent of Police Koranteng Mintah.

The Defence Counsel in their submission of no case prayed the court presided over by Mr Justice Yaw Appau to acquit and discharge the officers as the Prosecution had failed to prove its case.

The court in its ruling on the submissions of no case, stated that the Prosecution could not prove the acts of the Officers as those who caused harm, kill or maim the 127 fans at the Stadium on May 9.

The Court also held that the Prosecution had failed to prove the essential ingredients of the manslaughter charge levelled against the Officers.

The ingredients of the charge were: that there were deaths; that the deaths were caused by harm; that the harm caused was unlawful; that the Officers caused the death of the 127 fans and that the harm amounted to reckless disregard towards human lives.

It maintained that the Prosecution had proved that there were deaths but could not prove that the fans died as a result of harm caused by the Officers.

Mr Justice Appau was of the view that the Officers did not cause the deaths of the 127 fans as the Pathologists had attributed the cause of deaths to traumatic asphyxia and not through inhaling of tear gas.

This, it said occurred as a result of inadequate air for the fans to breath and stated that the Officers should not be blamed for that.

Mr Justice Appau, however, attributed the cause of deaths to the failure of the Stadium Officials to open the gates, coupled with the light going off and the narrowness of the stairway where most of the fans forced their way through.

He mentioned that the fact that the Prosecution failed to prosecute the junior officers, who fired the tear gas, meant that the use of the tear gas was lawful.

The Judge noted that the Officers were duty bound and were acting lawfully by dispersing the rampaging fans that were destroying public property.

"The Police in preventing crime ought to apply maximum force and as such did not have in mind what was happening at the gates."

Quoting law authorities to support his claims, the Judge stated that the Police were duty bound to protect property and maintain law and order adding that the Police could not have looked on helplessly for the rampaging crowd destroy public property.

The Court noted that there were some discrepancies in the evidences of the Prosecution Witnesses saying some were based on falsehood.

Citing an example to support the falsehood on the part of a Prosecution Witnesses, the Judge mentioned a TV Cameraman, who said he saw and captured the six Officers, who had raised their hands but said he did not hear anything.

The Court said when the videotape was watched in the Court none of the accused persons was captured.

Also the Investigator in the case told the Court that he did not conduct any investigations into the matter as he was only asked by his authorities to caution and charge the Officers.

"The Investigator only relied on the Commission report and such did not conduct further investigations into the matter," the Judge said.