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General News of Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Source: Myjoyonline.com

Attorney General to protect 'privileges' of charged MPs

Deputy Attorney-General, Joseph Kpemka, says henceforth his outfit will ensure Parliamentarians are not impelled to appear in court on days that the House is sitting.

This is after Tuesday’s clash between two arms of government -Parliament and the Judiciary- following an order by an Accra High Court forcing Bawku Central MP, Mahama Ayariga, to abandon Parliamentary duties and appear to defend corruption charges brought against him by the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

On Tuesday a judge, Justice Afia Botwe, ruled that Mr Ayariga, who is facing cases of tax evasion and issues relating to the procurement of buses for his constituency, must show up for trial whenever he is required to do so.

Justice Botwe rejected a certificate issued by the Speaker of Parliament, Mike Oquaye, informing the court that the MP had work to do in Parliament.

Mr Ayariga had earlier written to the Special Prosecutor saying he will be unable to show up in court due to Parliamentary proceedings. But the judge ruled against the certificate and instructed the MP to present himself to the court anytime he is needed because he was not a witness.

But speaking on the development with JoyNews reporter, Joseph Opoku Gapko, the Deputy A-G said going forward, the Speaker’s ruling will guide the Department in their prosecutions, particularly those involving Members of Parliament.

“Until otherwise, what Mr. Speaker [Prof Mike Oquaye] has said, is what is going to guide this House and it is what is going to guide the Attorney-General’s Department in our prosecutions so that we don’t act contrary to the directive or the ruling that has been given by Mr. Speaker,” Kpemka stated.



Background

There are two cases against the MP filed at the court relating to the procurement of ambulances for his constituents and tax evasion.

Mr Ayariga had earlier written to the Special Prosecutor saying he will be unable to show up in court due to parliamentary proceedings.

His lawyer, Godwin Tamakloe on Tuesday, told the court that Mr Ayariga is unavailable.

Justice Botwe said the case could not progress without the MP handing the lawyers up until 1 pm to ensure he is present.

The MP showed up in court 10mins to the 1 pm deadline with his lawyers presenting a certificate issued by the speaker of parliament informing the court that, the MP has parliamentary work.

But Justice Botwe said this was not tenable because Mr.Ayariga was not a witness of the court neither were state prosecutors attempting to serve him with a court process.

She held that he had been duly charged and served and will, therefore, have no excuse not to show up in court whenever he is needed.

The Judge adjourned the case to June 10, to hear arguments filed by Mr Ayariga’s lawyers challenging the charges filed against him.

Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, who was reacting to the decision said it will affect the work of Parliament. He also indicated plans to challenge the decision at the Supreme Court.