Presidential pardon for Montie 3 would be ‘capricious’ - Ndebugre

BY: Enoch Darfah Frimpong

Some lawyers have expressed different views over an intention to petition President John Dramani Mahama for a presidential pardon for the Montie trio so they do not go to prison to serve the four months custodial sentences imposed on them by the Supreme Court.

There have been calls for the president to invoke his powers under Article 72 of the constitution to grant pardon to the convicts.

Lawyers for the three have described the punishment as harsh and have indicated an intention to petition President Mahama for a presidential pardon.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday sentenced the three to four months’ imprisonment each for scandalising the court.

The two radio panelists, Allistair Tairo Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn spurred by the host, Salifu Maase alias Mugabe on a political talk show on Montie FM threatened the lives of judges of the superior court, especially those who heard the case on the credibility of Ghana’s electoral register filed by Abu Ramadan and Evans Nimako against the Electoral Commission.

After founding them guilty of contempt, they were handed the four month custodial sentence and in addition pay a Ghc10,000 fine each or in default serve an additional one month in prison. 

In separate radio and television interviews in reaction to the sentencing, some lawyers advised President Mahama not to pay attention to any such petition should it be sent to his office arguing that it could it be scandalous for the president.

Mr John Ndebugre, a former Member of Parliament for Zebilla in Upper East region speaking to Accra based Citi FM for instance said if he was to advise the president, he will tell him to stay clear of the issue.

He said the processes for granting a presidential pardon would not even conclude before the four months jail sentence for the convicts end and said processes like that needs to be initiated by the Ministry of Interior to trigger investigations on how various prisoners are carrying themselves in the prison.

This, he said would determine convicts who are to benefit from any pardon of that sort and whether they indeed deserve such a pardon.

Besides, these things are done on special occasions, like Independence Day or Republic Day, which he said have all passed for this year.

He therefore described the intention by the lawyers of the convicts as “unwarranted” saying the president cannot operate capriciously with Article 72 of the constitution.

On his part Nii Ayikoi Otoo, a former Attorney General and Minister of Justice expressed similar sentiments.

Speaking on television Wednesday evening, two other lawyers Mr Yaw Oppong, a law lecturer at the Central University College and Mr Korieh Duodu, counsel at Bentsi-Enchill Letsa & Ankomah unanimously agreed that an executive intervention in the four months jail sentencing of the trio would be an attack on the independence of the Judiciary.

The two lawyers who spoke on Joy News’ current affairs programme, PM Express opposed suggestions of a Presidential Pardon for the broadcaster and two radio panellists.

“It simply won’t be acceptable for the President to do that,” Mr Korieh Duodu said 

Mr Duodu said the issue could escalate if the President took such a step, Myyoyonline.com reported.

“That would a scandalous thing to do,” he said, adding because of the political twist to the matter, it would be untenable for the President to make an intervention.

“The Supreme Court, acting in its independent capacity, has made this ruling and expects the ruling to be carried out,” he stressed.

Yaw Oppong on his part was also reported by the online news portal as saying the President must rise above the temptation to please NDC supporters by taking any counter action.

“It won’t be legally appropriate, that doesn’t mean it will be against the law, but in the general frame of things it will never be appropriate – especially in an election year,” he said.

“It may be politically disastrous. There are people who have vowed to vote this way or that way. But the few who determine who should be President of Ghana - the so called floating voters. Things like these can easily sway them. But it should not just be based on voting. It should be based on sound principles,” he added.

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