Friday, September 7, 2012

Gbagbo aide denied bail

Thursday, September 6, 2012 (Page 3 Lead) The Human Rights Court on September 5, 2012 refused to order the release of a key ally of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, Justin Kone Katinan, who is currently in the custody of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI). According to the court, the state had justified why Mr Katinan should be held in lawful custody. “Although counsel for the applicant made brilliant submissions, I cannot pre-empt or prejudice the case. I cannot truncate the extradition process because such issues are not before me,” the presiding judge, Mr Justice Kofi Essel-Mensah, pointed out. Mr Katinan was picked by security forces at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) on August 24, 2012 following a request from the Ivorian government for him to be extradited to face prosecution for alleged crimes he committed during the post-election violence in Cote d’Ivoire. His lawyer filed an ex parte motion praying the court to order the BNI to produce his client in court. The application was granted resulting in the state producing Mr Katinan on August 31, 2012. The court, however, adjourned the case to yesterday to enable it to study an affidavit in opposition to documents filed by Mr Patrick Sogbodjor praying the court to release his client. Ruling on an application for habeas corpus filed on behalf of Mr Katinan, the presiding judge held that concerns raised by counsel could best be addressed during the extradition proceedings. Mr Sogbodjor then pleaded with the court to grant his client bail, but Mr Justice Essel-Mensah advised him to formally apply for bail. Earlier, Mr Sogbodjor argued that his client was being held unlawfully because the state had failed to follow the procedure set out in extradition processes. He further submitted that his client was a refugee who was seeking asylum in Ghana from persecution in Cote d’Ivoire, adding that a certificate proving he was an asylum seeker had been attached to the court documents. Mr Katinan has been registered as a refugee and has been living in Ghana under that status since April 13, 2011 till the day of his arrest. Quoting numerous laws and international treaties on refugee status, Mr Sogbodjor maintained that his client was entitled to full protection under the Refugee Act and reminded the court that Ghana had ratified the Geneva Convention on Refugees and it was, therefore, unfortunate his client was not being protected as expected. “Ghana is bound to follow laws to protect refugees from political persecution,” Mr Sogbodjor argued, and stated that in any case, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire had no agreement on extradition arrangements of their citizens when the need arose. He cited Togo, Nigeria and Benin as the only African countries Ghana had such arrangement with and accordingly prayed the court to discharge his client, since he was being held illegally. Responding to counsel’s arguments, a Chief State Attorney, Ms Merley Wood, informed the court that Mr Katinan was arrested with an international warrant dated August 16, 2012 for onward extradition to face 10 counts of robbery. She said the facts of the case stated among others that Mr Katinan and others committed financial crimes during the second round of voting in Cote d’Ivoire. According to her, Mr Katinan was being held lawfully and was billed to appear before the Osu District Magistrate Court (which remanded him last Tuesday) on September 6, 2012. Mrs Wood argued that Ghana had ratified the laws on extradition of persons within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). She also reminded the court that it was not the proper forum to discuss the details of the case because the extradition processes were yet to begin.

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