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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Court orders BNI Boss to appear in court

The Court of Appeal has ordered the Director of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Yaw Donkor, and two other officials of the bureau to appear before the Accra Human Rights Court to answer contempt charges against them.

The court, in upholding the October 29, 2009 ruling of the Human rights Court yesterday, said Mr. Donkor and the two officials, Josephine Gandawiri and Stephen Abrokwa had no justification to have the case heard in-camera.

Constituted by Justice Henrietta Abban, Justice G.M Quaye and Justice Samuel Marful-Su, the Court of Appeal dismissed the Attorney General’s appeal against the in-camera hearing of the contempt application.

Yaw Donkor and his two subordinates were cited for contempt for preventing former Information Minister, Stephen Asamoah Boateng, and his family from travelling outside the country on two occasions without recourse to a court order.

However, on September 3, 2009, the Attorney-General’s Department filed an application at the Human Rights Court praying it to hear the case in-camera in view of the fact that the persons involved are undercover agents.

The A-G had argued, “Order 50, Rule 3 of the court rules allows the judge to grant an in-camera hearing in case bordering on national security” stressing that “the persons are involved in intelligence work on behalf of the State and therefore it will be inimical for their identities to be blown out”.

Counsel for Mr. Asamoah Boateng and family, Nene Amegatcher, however, opposed the request by the A-G for the case to be heard in-camera.

He had told the court that under Act 526, officials of BNI are supposed to work as undercover agents, who after their investigations pass on information to the Police, Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and other agencies for them to act on or the A-G for possible prosecution.

But he said: “That is not what is happening on the ground. They wear tags with BNI inscription,” and, thus, prayed the court to dismiss the application by the A-G.

The Human Rights Court after listening to the submissions dismissed the in-camera application and ordered the contemnors to appear on November 12, 2009 to answer the charges against them.

But consequent to the ruling, the A-G filed an application at the Court of Appeal to contest the ruling by the Human Rights Court.

Dismissing the appeal yesterday, the Court of Appeal upheld the Human rights Court’s decision that “in so far as both the police and the BNI have the same rights and protection under the Security and Intelligence Act 526, the BNI cannot be given special treatment. The police have been appearing in court in most cases to give evidence for which reason the three cannot claim to be undercover agents and not appear in court to answer the charges.

This means that the contemnors are expected to appear in open court in person on January 20, 2010, the next adjourned date at the Human Rights Court.

Mr. Donkor, Ms Gandawiri and Mr. Abrokwa have consistently failed to appear before the Human Rights Court in person since the case started last August, even before the A-G filed the in-camera application which counsel for Mr. Asamoah Boateng had consistently complained about.

Attempts to reach the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu, for her reaction on the case proved futile as she told the Times newspaper on phone that she was in the Ashanti Region and therefore, could not speak on the issue.

She however, directed the Times to her Deputy, Ebow Barton-Oduro, who could not be reached on phone in spite of numerous attempts.

Source: Ghanaian Times/Ghana

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