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Opinions of Sunday, 22 June 2008

Columnist: Asare, Kwaku S.

The P/NDC should stop intimidating our Judges

The P/NDC has always resented justice and has used various ways to intimidate our judges. The P/NDC earliest attack on the justice system was the establishment of the Public Tribunals, which was supposed to be a system that dispensed "justice" without any of the technicalities like interlocutory appeals, adjournments, rule of law, evidence code, and legal representation.

This was soon to be followed by the abduction and execution of Justices Koranteng Addow, Agyepong and Sarkodie at the Bundase military range. Subsequent evidence by the SIB found that the then P/NDC Security Capo, Kojo Tsikata, masterminded this military operation with the intention to intimidate the judiciary.

The P/NDC turned its attention to Justice Afreh following the conviction of the Quality Grain gang. Afreh was maligned, insulted, and accused of taking instructions from the Castle. As a matter of fact, Afreh's judgment in the Quality Grain case was a masterpiece that is cited by the Supreme Court in any discussion of the Law on Causing Financial Loss to the State. He defined the contours of this crime and applied the law to the facts of the case before him. Notwithstanding that he also set free some of the defendants in that case, evidencing his independence and commitment to justice, the P/NDC attack machine was unleashed on him. Restrained by his profession and unable to defend himself, he endured months of unfair and reprehensible attacks from the P/NDC machine led by Obed Asamoah, chairman JJR and Asiedu Nketiah. May he rest in peace.

Next, the P/NDC turned its poison on Justice Faakye. His offence was to send Abodakpi to jail for defrauding the State to the tune of $400,000. Justice Faakye was accused of taking a phone call that instructed him on the verdict and sentence that he must imposed on Abodakpi. Such warped reasoning! Again Faakye became a victim of the P/NDC malicious attacks and no section of the society rose to his defense.

Most recently the P/NDC has turned its attention to Justice Henrietta Abban. Somehow Abban has always been the object of the P/NDCs intimidating attacks. She was once accused of calling Faakye to instruct him on how to sentence Abodakpi. And now that Abban has sentenced Tsatsu Tsikata for his criminal actions, the attacks on her have reached a crescendo.

I cannot think of another criminal case in the history of criminal trials, anywhere in the world, where the defendant has been given so much leeway to abuse the interlocutory process as happened in the Tsikata case. The case itself is a very mundane one. Tsikata was charged with three counts of willfully causing financial loss of about 2.3 billion cedis (about $5M based on the exchange rate at the time of the transaction) to the State through a loan he guaranteed for Valley Farms, a private concern, on behalf of the GNPC. He was also charged with misapplying public property. In effect, the State’s primary burden was to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a willful act by Tsatsu caused a financial loss to the State.

One of the interlocutory appeals heard by the Supreme Court was whether the Chief Justice had the administrative power to create the Fast track Courts. In February 2002, a subset of the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 decision, declared the Fast Track Court unconstitutional and immediately put at substantial risk all the decisions that had been hitherto rendered by these Fast Track Courts. In spite of this risk, the full panel of the Supreme Court waited for 4 months before reviewing and setting aside this totally flawed decision.

In the most bizarre of these interlocutory appeals, Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata petitioned an Accra High Court to declare as null and void, a judgment given against him by the Supreme Court (the SC had ruled that the AG can represent the CJ). No disciplinary actions were taken against the lawyers who filed this frivolous petition.

In spite of this clear abuse of the appellate process and the unprecedented benefit of the doubt that Tsikata was given at the trial level, it is amazing that no less a person than Professor Mills will assault the judiciary at the IEA platform to launch his failing campaign. One would have expected that a Presidential wannabe, and a former law professor, will be a little more respecting of the Justice system and put the interest of the nation ahead of his friend.

Finally, it amazes me that civil society has countenanced these unfair attacks on our Justices by this lawless bunch for so long. It is time for those of us who believe in the rule of law to stand up for our judges and push back at these P/NDC hooligans.

It is time to put an end to the intimidation of our justices!



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