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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BNI cannot seize passports - High Court declares

The Fast Track Division of the High Court in Accra has granted relieves sought by former Foreign Minister Akwasi Osei Agyei over the seizure of his passport by the Bureau of National Investigations.

The court wants the BNI to return the passport to him immediately and also refrain from curtailing his free movement without a recourse to the courts.

The former Foreign Minister in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration sought a declaration that the seizure of the passport by the BNI was not constitutional and against his right to free movement.

According to Joy News’ Sampson Laadi Ayenini, who was in court, the ruling means that the BNI cannot under any circumstance confiscate a citizen’s passport unless it is so authourised by a court of competent jurisdiction. The BNI should have to present before a court, explicit reasons for wanting to restrict a person’s movement by taking away his or her passport and the grant would have to grant the request based on its merit, and in accordance with law.

The BNI seized Mr Osei Adjei’s passport in lieu of some rice imported from India which the bureau said his ministry facilitated in a fraudulent manner. He has denied any wrong doing.

Following the seizer, Mr Osei Adjei sued the national investigative body, arguing they no right to seize his passport and that the BNI acted arbitrarily, contrary to the laws of the land. The court upheld his argument.

Counsel for Mr Osei Adjei, Mr. Godfred Odamey told Sampson all three reliefs sought by the plaintiff were granted by the court.

The applicants sought an unconditional release of the passport and an order restraining the Attorney-General and BNI from curtailing the right to freedom of movement of the plaintiff, counsel said.


He described the ruling as a victory for the country’s democracy and deepening of the rule of law.

Supporters of the former Foreign Minister who thronged the court premises, wielded placards some of which read, “we believe in the court,” “we want fairness.”

The obviously elated crowds chanted slogans and danced away the Tuesday morning.

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