Friday, September 7, 2012

Gbagbo's former Spokesperson back in custody

Saturday, September 1, 2012 (Page 3 Lead) OFFICERS of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) yesterday produced Justin Kone Katinan, a key ally of former Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo, at the Human Rights Division of the Fast Track High Court in Accra. This followed a court order issued last Tuesday, directing the BNI to produce Mr Katinan, who has been in custody since August 24, 2012. Mr Katinan was picked by security personnel at the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) on August 24, following a request from the Ivorian government for him to be extradited to face prosecution for alleged economic crimes he committed during the recent post-election violence in Cote d’Ivoire. At the Human Rights Court’s sitting in Accra yesterday, Mr Katinan was seen clad in a dark suit and a pink neck tie. He sipped water occasionally. The court, presided over Mr Justice Kofi Essel-Mensah, said he had received an affidavit in opposition to the application for habeas corpus which prayed the court to order the BNI to produce Mr Katinan. The application, which was filed on his behalf by his lawyer, Mr Patrick Sogbodjor, is expected to be moved on September 5, 2012. The judge said he needed time to study the attached documents which were voluminous. Mr Sogbodjor indicated that he had also filed a response to the affidavit in opposition. The state was represented by a Chief State Attorney, Mrs Merley Wood, and a Principal State Attorney, Mrs Yvonne Attakorah-Obuobisa. On August 24, 2012, Mr Katinan was picked up together with Ms Lucie Bourchouymieux, an Ivorian lawyer, shortly on arrival from Johannesburg, South Africa. Ms Bourchouymieux was, however, released but Mr Katinan has since been detained at the Greater Accra Regional BNI Offices. A statement signed by a Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said Mr Katinan’s arrest was based on a warrant issued by the Ivorian authorities on August 16, 2012. The statement said President John Dramani Mahama, in accordance with the Ghanaian Constitution, had since asked the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to study the extradition instruments and advise accordingly. According to Mr Sogbodjor, no reason had been assigned for the arrest and detention of his client. He said Mr Katinan had been registered as a refugee and had been living in Ghana under that status since April 13, 2011. Mr Katinan is the second top official in Gbagbo's government to be arrested while living in exile. The first was the arrest of Moise Lida Kouassi, a former Defence Minister, who was picked up in Togo on June 6, 2012 and was extradited the same day. Mr Katinan fled to Ghana after the collapse of Laurent Gbagbo’s regime. His arrest on Friday, August 24, 2012, in Ghana, was under an August 2011 warrant issued by the Ivorian authorities for alleged economic crimes he committed when he was a Budget Minister during three months of crisis and conflict that followed Gbagbo's refusal to cede power to his rival, Mr Alassane Ouattara.

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