The testimony of the third prosecution witness in the alleged $4 million loss at the National Communications Authority (NCA) is being heard in camera following a request from the state.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Mrs Yvonne Attakorah-Obuobisa, informed the court at its sitting in Accra yesterday that the third prosecution witness’ testimony bordered on national security and for that reason she was praying the court to excuse the public from the hearing.
She premised her application on Article 19 (15) of the 1992 Constitution but her prayer did not go down well with the defence team, which mounted a spirited opposition to the request.
Counsel for the first accused person, Mr Thaddeus Sory, prayed the court to dismiss the state’s request, on the grounds that enough notice was not given to the defence team.
“With all due respect, the application made this morning gives the impression that the state takes the view that matters involving state security, public morality, public safety or public order are matters of interest to the prosecution alone.
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“The reason for which I make the submission is the most basic and fundamental principles of practice is, at least, notice be given to all parties prior to application because we are all stakeholders in this matter,” Mr Sory argued.
Counsel argued that if the application was formally made in terms of motion on notice with regard to its nature, an oral notice should have been given
Mr Sory said the rule was that proceedings must be held in public unless it was demonstrated that exceptions provided by law were applicable.
Counsel further argued that the rights of the accused persons could not be taken away from them and emphasised that “we need basis to determine if there is merit in the application and be heard on that before ruling”.
Responding to the opposition from the defence team, Mrs Attakorah-Obuobisa said the prosecution had complied with various articles under the 1992 Constitution.
She submitted that her application was perfectly within Article 19 of the 1992 Constitution and further disagreed with the defence team’s position that her request must be looked at by the
Supreme Court under Article 135 (1) of the 1992 Constitution.
“All we are asking is PW3 is a national security representative and will disclose matters of national interest, which will border on the security and safety of the state or public safety and so must be allowed to disclose this evidence to the hearing of the court, accused persons and their lawyers only,” she said.
Ruling on the matter, the presiding judge, Mr Justice Eric Kyei Baffour, said issues of national security, defence and public safety were the exclusive preserve of the state.
“In this case, I don’t think the court errs when it refers to privileged matters of security to be the preserve of state. The trial will still take place in the presence of accused, all
lawyers - any claim that the rights of accused persons will be violated cannot be correct,” the court held.
The court further held that “nothing situates this case to be referenced to Supreme Court under Article 135”.
It, accordingly, granted the state’s request and excused the public, except the accused persons, the defence team and the prosecution to witness the testimony of the representative from the National Security.
Case against accused
A former Director-General of the National Communications Authority (NCA), William Matthew Tetteh Tevie; Eugene Baffoe-Bonnie, Nana Owusu Ensaw and Alhaji Salifu Mimina Osman, all former board members, and a businessman, George Derek Oppong, have been accused of playing various roles leading to the loss of $4 million to the state.
The accused persons have been charged with diverse counts of wilfully causing financial loss of $4 million to the state in the procurement of listening devices for the state.
The accused have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.