There was drama yesterday at the Osu Magistrate’s court near the Accra Sports Stadium when operatives of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) clashed with the trial judge over the custody of three men arrested for narcotic drugs offences.
Vehicles and mobile phones were smashed in the rage that characterized the commotion, which as at press time around 7pm, was yet to be resolved as BNI operatives held people hostage at the court premises.
In the end, armed policemen from the SWAT Operational Unit, led by DCOP Rose Bio Atinga, the Greater Accra Regional Commander, stormed the court premises to save the situation as the Magistrate, Ellen Anokye, was determined to ensure that her orders were carried out.
The suspects, Daniel Djabaah, Eric Owusu-Manu and Frank Bruno Pappoe were last week granted GH¢10,000 bail each with a surety, but they could not fulfill the bail terms until yesterday. Meanwhile, a fourth suspect, Kevin Boateng, was not granted bail.
Additionally, the court had seized their travelling documents and ordered them to report to the BNI every other day.
Matters came to a head at about 3:45 pm when armed BNI operatives decided to re-arrest the suspects, right at the entrance of the court’s premises because, according to them, “there are new developments in the case”.
The BNI used their vehicles to block the path of the suspects who were seated in the vehicles of their counsel.
A scuffle ensued and as it degenerated, the judge, who was sitting on other cases, rushed out to order the BNI to halt the arrests in the court premises.
The BNI then allegedly seized the mobile phone of a driver of a lawyer who was trying to film the incident and in the process, the phone was smashed while a BMW saloon car belonging to one of the defense lawyers was also damaged.
As the suspects retreated to the court premises, the BNI pursued them and in the process, one of the BNI drivers was said to have been detained on the orders of the judge.
Determined to re-arrest the suspects, the BNI operatives then positioned themselves at the entrance of the court while the judge and the suspects were kept inside the courtroom.
At about 4:50 pm, a fully-armed SWAT team arrived and took position before escorting the judge to the scene where the lawyer’s car was smashed.
DCOP Bio Atinga arrived at exactly 5:29pm and after conferring with the judge, the two, together with the armed policemen, again went to the scene where she (judge) narrated what transpired to the police boss.
They came back to the judge’s chamber for a long meeting and as at 6:30pm, they were still locked up in the meeting while the BNI still laid ‘ambush’.
The judge, who was visibly angry, was seen remonstrating with the police boss about the behaviour of the BNI operatives who she described as “trying to disobey the court’s order.
“I will insist that orders of the court are respected”, she told DCOP Bio Atinga, adding, “If you want to arrest suspects, is that the way to go about it?”
According to the judge, the BNI did not have any arrest warrant to re-arrest the suspects, adding, “If you have any reservations about my ruling, you go on appeal.
“The damage they caused to the vehicle, who is going to bear responsibility?” she queried in reference to the lawyer’s car that was damaged.
Juliet Addo-Yobo, one of the defense counsel, alleged that the BNI operatives, in an attempt, to seize the suspects from them, drew a pistol and pointed it at her colleague.
DAILY GUIDE later learnt that DCOP Bio Atinga was able to persuade the judge to release the suspects to her so that she could sort the issue out with the BNI.
Meanwhile, the Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG) says it has followed closely the security situation and the respect for institutions of state with alarm, regarding what happened at the Osu Magistrate court yesterday.
“AFAG would want to draw the attention of government and stakeholders, most importantly, donor partners to consider ways of restoring confidence and hope in the security forces among the people of Ghana, considering the major elections in 2012. Under President Mills, it seems the BNI and National security apparatus are subject to their own laws and not the laws of the state.
“The on-going stand-off between the police and the BNI at the Osu Circuit Court undermines the authority of the court and attempts to intimidate the judiciary.”
AFAG said it was more alarmed by the silence of the Minister for the Interior on the matter and many others in the past.
Source: William Yaw Owusu/Daily Guide
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