Wednesday, December 9, 2009 (Page 3 Lead)
THE Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) yesterday complied with a court order and produced the five soldiers who were being held for the alleged murder of a former Deputy Managing Director of the Ghana Commercial Bank (GCB), Mr Rokko Frimpong.
They are also being investigated for allegedly undermining the re-denomination exercise which took place two years ago. According to the state, Mr Frimpong was deeply involved in the re-denomination exercise.
The Human Rights Division of the High Court on December 2, 2009 gave the BNI seven days to state the whereabouts and reasons for the continuous detention of Sergeants Michael Arthur, Richard Somuah and Lamptey Haizel and Corporals Charles Ankumah and Emmanuel Antwi.
At the court's sitting in Accra yesterday, the five, who were in civil clothes and had been in custody since November 12, 2009, were brought in by the BNI operatives and armed policemen, in apparent compliance with an order from the Presiding Judge, Ms Irene Charity Danquah, an Appeal Court Judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge.
The acting Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms Gertrude Aikins, who admitted that the security operatives had erred in not sending the soldiers to court for a remand warrant after keeping them in custody for 48 hours, explained that the state had cured that anomaly by seeking a remand warrant from the circuit court.
Ms Aikins said the five were being investigated for the alleged murder of Mr Frimpong as well as for undermining the re-domination exercise which took place two years ago.
She said the matter was very "sensitive and complicated" and it was important that the court sanctioned their detention, while investigations continued.
Ms Aikins said the soldiers were lawfully remanded in custody and further gave an undertaken that the state would produce the soldiers anytime it was asked to do so by the court.
She intimated that the soldiers were being held for murder, a crime whose bail was not provided for under the laws of Ghana.
However, lawyers for the soldiers, Messrs Joe Aboagye Debrah and Mr Kwaku Paintsil disagreed with the prosecution and moved an application for habeas corpus, a legal action through which a person can seek relief from unlawful detention or that of another person.
Moving the motion on behalf of four of the soldiers, excluding Cpl. Haizel, Mr Debrah said the Constitution did not sanction the detention of suspects without recourse to the law courts.
He said the state admitted the soldiers were kept unlawfully and sought to cure that illegality by going for a remand warrant a day prior to the hearing of the application for habeas corpus.
Counsel explained that he filed the application for habeas corpus on November 26, 2009 and served the state on the same day and, therefore, the state acted in "extreme bad faith" when it secured the remand of the soldiers on December 1, 2009 in an attempt to disable the higher court "from giving effect to constitutional rights of the applicants."
"The fundamental issue confronting the court this morning is whether a clear constitutional illegality admitted by the state can be cured by a warrant from the circuit court or not. That illegality cannot be cured and has not been cured," Mr Debrah submitted.
He said the soldiers were held for a record 456 hours without a court order and to make matters worse, they were not informed of their rights when they were arrested.
For his part, counsel for Cpl. Haizel, Mr Kwaku Paintsil, associated himself with his colleague's submissions and said the state must not be allowed to flout the constitution on mere suspicion and allegation.
According to counsel, the state was in contempt of court by deciding to seek a remand of the soldiers, a day before the hearing of the motion for habeas corpus.
The Accra Circuit Court, presided over by Mr C. A. Wilson, remanded the soldiers to reappear on December 15, 2009, the day that had also been fixed for ruling on the application for habeas corpus.
When the soldiers were being escorted outside the court, their wives wailed uncontrollably but their husbands consoled them saying everything would be alright.