Court condemns police brutalities against accused persons

BY: Nana Konadu Agyeman & Daniel Oduro-Mensah

The Accra Central District Court has strongly condemned the blatant brutalities meted out by the police to eight people who are standing trial for their alleged involvement in highway robberies across the country.

The court said such brutalities and the manner in which the police forced the accused persons to carry guns to be paraded for their photos to be taken and published in a newspaper amounted to gross human rights violation.

To avoid further police molestation, it threatened that it would release the accused persons from police cells and commit them to the Nsawam Medium Security Prison.

It ordered six of the eight who had reported sick to be sent to the Police Hospital in Accra for medical care.

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Besides, the court, presided over by Mr Stephen Owusu, directed the three defence counsel to form a team and submit a petition to the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to draw his attention to the brutalities their clients had been subjected to in the hands of policemen.

Bail refused

The court, which refused to grant bail to the accused persons, expressed the sentiments when eight of the 24 suspects  arrested for their alleged involvement in a number of robberies on major highways across the country appeared before it yesterday.

The eight, who have been standing trial for the past four months, are charged with six counts of robbery, conspiracy to commit crime, murder, attempted escape from lawful custody and causing unlawful damage.

Their pleas have not been taken.

They are Abdulai Salia, a spiritualist; Abdul Karim, a businessman; Osman Yaro Jallo, a herdsman; Musah Bube, a herdsman; Abdul Razzak Osman, a taxi driver; Fatawu Mohammed; Kofi Ahmed, a businessman, and Inusah Layah, a herdsman.

Counsel for the accused, including Mr Paul Kumi and Ms Leticia Afful, had expressed disappointment and anger at the way the police had abused their clients, including head butting, in various police cells in spite of the fact that they had been going through trial.

They also expressed resentment at the failure of the substantive prosecutor, Detective Corporal Augustine Dery, to show up in court to inform it on progress of investigations into the case, as well as the consistent refusal of the police to send some of the indisposed suspects to hospital.

Prosecutor taken on

Responding to the concerns of the defence counsel, the court said even if the prosecutor was unable to show up in court to brief the court on the progress of investigations into the case, the police should assign another prosecutor to discharge that duty for the case to continue.

“I expected Mr Dery to be here in court today to tell me the progress of investigations,” it stated, adding that such police conduct must be made known to the IGP.

“It is unfair for Mr Dery to have told the court that he was not sure when investigations were ending. When he wasn’t sure when investigations would end, on what basis did the police parade the accused persons?” the court asked.

It wondered why the police decided to splash photos of the accused persons on the front page of the July 10, 2017 issue of the Daily Graphic when they had not completed their investigations.

Police ill motive

Mr Kumi had earlier told the court that since the trial began, counsel had appreciated the challenges the police faced but what they least expected was the abuse meted out to their clients.

“Our Constitution upholds the presumption of innocence until otherwise determined by a court of law. To that extent, whenever anybody is arrested as a suspect, he is subsequently brought to court as an accused person.

“Unless the court makes a determination concerning the matter, nothing should be taken with a view to compromising the reputation of the accused person in the case,” he stated.

Mr Kumi referred to the July 10, 2017 edition of the Daily Graphic which, he said, described his clients as highway armed robbers, although the case was pending before the court which had not pronounced them guilty of the offence of robbery.

He said the pictures of his clients were boldly splashed on the front page, with an inset of them with arms.

Police set-ups

Mr Kumi also vented his frustration at the manner in which various descriptions were used in the newspaper to portray the suspected criminals as Fulanis, when most of them were Ghanaians.

“I have been shown by my clients that out of the 24 suspected armed robbers rounded up and exhibited, only three are of Fulanis extraction, while the rest are full-blooded Ghanaians.

“During the identification, those who refused to carry guns were seriously beaten and forced to carry the arms for their photos to be taken. In this age of human civilisation, the police are supposed to protect us,” he stated.

Prosecutor on another duty

Responding to the defence counsel’s claims, Detective Inspector Simon Apiasornu informed the court that the substantive prosecutor, Mr Dery, had been assigned to another case.

“When I went to the Police Headquarters yesterday, l was also informed that the accused persons who had reported ill had been sent to the Police Hospital for medical attention,” he added.

The court adjourned to July 26, 2017.