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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tussle over ex-minister's 'freed' passport

Gabby Asare Otchere Darko
Gabby Asare Otchere Darko

Mr Gabby Otchere Darko, the Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, a policy think tank, says the Bureau of National Investigations must release the passport of Mr Osei Adjei, ex-Minister for Foreign Affairs without delay.

He said comments by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu that the state has seven days within which to comply with the orders of the High Court to release the passport were unfortunate.

The Fast-Track High Court on Monday ordered the BNI to release Mr Osei Adjei’s passport to him, instructing also that the national investigative body would need a court's order to seize the passport or restrict the movement of persons.

The BNI seized Mr Osei Adjei’s passport in July in connection with investigations into a large quantity of rice imported from India. The BNI suspects some illegality in the transaction and has charged Mr. osei Odjei with willfully causing financial loss to the state.

The A-G has expressed displeasure with the court's decision and said she had hoped the decision would have gone in favour of the state.

She said there would be a meeting of the government's legal team and the BNI to decide what action next to take and will return the passport to the ex-minister in seven days if the government decides not to appeal the decision.

But that position, according to Gabby, amounts to disrespecting the court’s decision. Quoting Rule 27 of the Court of Appeal rules, Gabby said it is only when an appeal is pending that a decision of the court had to be adhered to in seven days.

“We must have greater respect for human rights in this country,” he charged, asking whether it was acceptable for a policeman to hold onto a prisoner after a court has ruled that the prisoner should be freed, with the explanation that the police are considering appealing the court’s decision.

Mr Otchere Darko also took issues with Mrs Iddrisu for saying she was going to 'take advice' from the BNI as to the next line of action.

He argued the AG should be advising the BNI and not the other way round.

Gabby, who is also a lawyer, expressed regret that a legal department of the BNI has recently been collapsed leaving the national investigative body at the mercy of making mistakes.

Reacting to Gabby’s submission, the Interior Minister, Mr. Cletus Avoka said there was nothing fundamentally wrong with holding onto the passport of Mr Osei Adjei for seven days within which the A-G and the BNI would decide whether to appeal the decision.

He said that was acceptable in law, explaining that after a judgement is given, the parties in the case usually have seven days within which to enforce the judgement. After seven days, the party in whose favour the judgement was given can then enter judgement.

A Senior Lecturer at the Ghana Law School, Maxwell Opoku Agyeman agreed with Mr Avoka on the point of the seven days within which to file an appeal.

He however emphasized that an appeal does not necessarily constitute a stay of execution and explained that if a party does not want to abide by the ruling of a court, a stay of execution must be applied for.

Story by Malik Abass Daabu/Myjoyonline.com/Ghana

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