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Opinions of Friday, 20 September 2019

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

Remembering Gregory Afoko and Mahmoud Hussein

Gregory Afoko Gregory Afoko

The Aljazeera journalist Mahmoud Hussein has just spent his 1000th day in prison.

His arrest by Egyptian authorities is widely linked to reporting news about the former Egyptian leader and the Muslim Brotherhood – a body that has been classified by the present administration as a terrorist organization.

Initial charges of “incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos” were dropped.

On the occasion of the 1000th day of his detention, gave the following update:

“In May, an Egyptian court rejected an order by the state prosecutor to release him from prison…..Authorities opened a new investigation against him with unspecified charges and returned him to prison. While in solitary confinement, Hussein suffered a broken arm and has been refused proper medical treatment.”

Let us direct our attention southwest to Ghana, and we see a similar trend.

Here, the attorneys for Gregory Afoko successfully convinced a high court to release their client since there were no charges against him.

But the state prosecutors go round shopping for another high court that will be more favourable to the idea of his continued detention without charges, thus not inconvenient to a prosecution that is not ready.

In both cases the due process of law based on a time honoured tradition has been skewed.

It is easy to see how some may argue that the prosecution shopping for a different court that is favourable to their cause is within the law.

This brings a sharp reminder of Martin Luther King: “There are good laws and there are bad laws.”

In “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”, King reminded us of the imperative to oppose bad laws with logic and the force of conscience.

Why do we agree to play within a rules based system that also allows for shifting of the goalposts?

“It is like chasing your shadow,” my mentor observes of such situations. “Logic flies away in the face of the actions of the prosecutors.”

If the “second opinion” court should rule against the prosecution will they ever accept it or will they continue with their impious designs?

In our Ghanaian system all accused persons should be worried on account of these prior documented and overt actions of the government!

For those who might lack clarity, the legal system is different from the law.

A legal system is founded on the philosophy of natural justice.

Laws are a subset of the legal system, made by legislation, executive orders and set by the precedents of court judgements.

A good legal system has “very noble goals bordering on the transcendental” as my mentor has observed.

All of us men and women of goodwill are required to create one.

It is therefore our collective responsibility as sentient beings to speak up against cruelty and high handedness in the legal systems around the world ever saying with Martin Luther King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Gregory Afoko and Mahmoud Hussein will always remain in our thoughts even after the right things are done for them.

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