Court Rejects NDC National Chairman's Request
National Chairman of National Democratic Congress, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo
The attempt by the National Chairman of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, to have his trial put on hold while he appeals the decision of the trial charge was dashed as the court dismissed the application yesterday. The court also dismissed another oral application by his lawyer which was seeking it to adjourn the matter because they said they were entitled to a seven-day automatic stay following the dismissal of the application for stay of proceedings. Tony Lithur, counsel for the NDC chairman, had filed a notice of appeal and an application for stay of proceedings against the decision of Justice Samuel Asiedu, a Court of Appeal judge sitting as an additional High Court judge, to admit the witness statement of the first prosecution witness. It was the lawyer’s argument that the judge ‘erred’ when he dismissed their objection to the adoption of the witness statement. Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo and the party’s Deputy Communications Officer, Anthony Kwaku Boahen, are facing three charges before an Accra High Court over an alleged leaked audio, detailing strategies the NDC intends to use for the 2020 general election, one being the kidnappings of family members of political opponents. The First Prosecution Witness, Benjamin Osei Ampofo-Adjei, a broadcast journalist with Accra-based Adom FM, being led in evidence by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Yvonne Atakora-Obuobisa, denied his police investigation and witness statements presented by the prosecution. Mr. Ampofo-Adjei bizarrely said that although he signed the statement as witness, it was the first time he was seeing it. The tendering of the statement through the witness then generated heated debate as the defence lawyers were against the court accepting the document, but the court admitted it eventually. Mr. Lithur subsequently filed a notice of appeal against the decision and then filed an application for stay of proceeding pending the hearing and determination of the appeal. Moving the application yesterday, counsel said their main issue is that admitting the statement against the interest of the accused persons and, especially when the witness disavowed the statement would be prejudicial to the case of the accused persons. He said the first prosecution witness was very key to the trial and a determination of the appeal; whether or not the statement should be admitted into evidence will have an effect on the matter. Mr. Lithur argued that the witness had sworn an oath and can testify orally to matters that he is aware of, adding that the court erred in accepting the statement into evidence when the witness said he had no knowledge of the content of the statement. He added that by accepting the witness statement, the court had compelled the witness to testify in a particular manner which, he said, was against due process. Asiamah Sampong, a Chief State Attorney, opposed the application, saying the statement was part of the documents that the prosecution disclosed during case management process and if the defence team had any objection to the statement, they should have raised it the at pre-trial stage and not when the state was seeking to tender it in evidence. He added that the applicant had not demonstrated any special circumstances based on which the proceedings should be stayed. In dismissing the application, Justice Asiedu said the filing of a notice of appeal was not enough grounds for the proceedings to be stayed. He added that the court had seen the notice of appeal for which the stay of proceedings was being sought but it did not disclose any special circumstances for which the proceedings should be stayed. The court then asked the prosecution to call their witness into the box, but Mr. Lithur again said per Rule 27:3b of the Court of Appeal Rules, the accused persons were entitled to a seven-day automatic stay after the dismissal of the application. Justice Asiedu dismissed that application as well, saying the rules the lawyer relied on pertains to civil matters and not criminal cases. The court, however, acceded to the pleas of the defence lawyers to give them time to prepare. Hearing continues on February 27, 2020.