Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I don’t feel safe – Judge

Ebo Barton-Oduro is the Deputy Attorney_General of Ghana

Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com

By William Yaw Owusu

Tuesday August 24, 2010
“I have felt insulted, scandalized, and indeed bastardized all in the name of the AG’s office to play politics with the bench in general and with me in particular. I am no politician. I am a judge and have taken an oath to dispense justice to all manner of persons irrespective of whatever.

“I will only plead in the name of the Almighty God that they stop these useless propaganda against the bench and get their act together as professional lawyers instead of appearing to be political stooges.

“I have gone through very low moments because of these unsubstantiated accusations but I console myself in the fact that the legal fraternity who are better placed to assess me do not regard me as bad and irresponsible alcoholic judge as Barton–Oduro and his party wanted the Ghanaian public to believe.”

These were the words of Justice Anthony Oppong, the High Court judge who was trying 15 people suspected of killing Ya Na Yakubu Andani II, overlord of Dagbon, before he stepped down from the case.

He stated yesterday that he did not feel safe enough to continue sitting on the trial.

“I must quickly put it on record that in view of what is happening in this country, particularly the threats of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) chairman; I do not feel safe at all in handling this case. I will not take anything for granted because this country has a history. In the circumstances, I will invoke Section 104 of the Court’s Act, 1993, Act 459 and crave the indulgence of Her Ladyship the Chief Justice, in all humility and with the greatest respect, to transfer this case from this court.”

Justice Oppong gave the shocking ruling at the Fast Track High Court Four in Accra when the 15 suspects standing trial appeared before him.

On August 16, 2010, when full trial started, Rexford Wiredu, a Principal State Attorney prosecuting dropped a bombshell by claiming that the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu intended to object to the judge handling the case on the grounds of bias.

The judge then asked the Attorney General’s Department to formalize the application by pointing out the bias they (AG) were claiming and adjourned the case to yesterday August 23, 2010 for the motion to be moved.

However, before the motion could be heard, the Deputy Attorney General, Ebo Barton-Oduro was said to have granted a radio interview and accused Justice Oppong of being a drunkard and making prejudicial comments about the case at a drinking bar and that a woman had told him of the incident.

Declining to sit on the case, Justice Oppong said “for the ten years that I have been privileged to sit on the Ghanaian bench, the past few days since August 19, 2010 have proved to be the lowest moments for me.”

He said “I have been confronted with the weirdest and unmeritorious application by no other personality than the Attorney-General.”

The judge said Mr. Barton-Oduro had accused him of being “a drunkard” and being “irresponsible enough to have gone to a drinking bar and under the influence of alcohol, made prejudicial comments about this case.”

“I vehemently deny this. I have never been to a drinking bar and made any comments whatsoever on this Ya Na’s murder case. I challenge Mr. Barton-Oduro to substantiate or render unqualified apology to me for running me that down.”

He said the impression being created that the Ya Na murder case is NDC case “is devoid of substance” explaining “in any event, the AG’s office is not an appendage of the NDC. The AG, Deputy AG, all the lawyers in the office are not workers or staff of the NDC. They are on the payroll of the Republic of Ghana and not the NDC.”

Justice Oppong, who seemed disturbed by the turn-out of events, advised that lawyers at the AG’s office must first and foremost see themselves as professionals and not party functionaries saying “they are there to make their expertise and knowledge in the law available in the supreme interest of the Republic of Ghana.”

He said since the Ya Na suffered an unnatural death and some people have been accused of killing him there was no need to play politics with the case adding “the AG’s duty is to bring cogent and convincing evidence that is capable of convincing the jury to return a verdict of guilty.”

He said “this is a jury trial and it is not the judge who will pronounce these accused persons guilty. It is the jury that will do this so why should anyone accuse me of bias.

“Perhaps Barton-Oduro, Esquire, is forgetting that being the Deputy Attorney-General, he is the second leader of the bar and in this regard, a higher standard of legal practice is expected of him. Why would a person of that caliber go on radio and use me as a pawn to score cheap political points, painting me as the worst judge in this country?”

He said the Deputy AG must be ashamed of himself and must also be told that this is not how he should object to judges sitting on a case for whatever reason.

“If he did that to bring disaffection or hatred to me and for that matter the judiciary, he did nothing worthy of praise because one does not cut his nose to spite his face.”

When the AG raised the objection of bias against Justice Oppong and he asked the AG’s office to file the motion stating their grounds, the AG rather filed an application for judicial review which had no returning date and did not even notify lawyers handling the15 accused persons.

Justice Oppong, before giving the ruling, said as long as the Registrar had not fixed a date for the AG’s judicial review application or placed it before the court, he was not going to hear it and asked the prosecutor “do you expect that the very judge against whom the application has been filed will be the judge that will hear the application?”

Ebo Barton-Oduro, confused by the latest development, told Joy FM that he had a tape recording in which Justice Oppong said he would "throw out the case".

The judge was alleged to have told a lady at a drinking bar that the case would be thrown out.

“If he thinks that he did not say it and he wants that matter to be gone into, I am ready. I am telling you, I have the evidence. When I interviewed the lady, I recorded it. It is on tape; I don’t do things just for the fun of it," he said.

Asked if the interview was a third party interview, the deputy AG retorted: “What are you telling me?: The lady who was sitting on the table with him when he made the pronouncements. Let’s not go into that,” he warned.

He has threatened to make the tape public if Justice Oppong continues to cast aspersions at him.
But Justice Oppong has thrown a challenge to Barton-Oduro to go public with the so-called tape.

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