Nine people, including five soldiers, have been charged with treason on allegations of plotting to destabilise the country and “possibly take over the government”.
The soldiers are Colonel Samuel Kodzo Gameli, Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO 2) Esther Saan Dekuwine, Corporal Seidu Abubakar, Lance Corporal (L/Cpl) Ali Solomon and L/Cpl Sylvester Akanpewon.
The other accused persons are Dr Frederick Yao Mac-Palm, medical practitioner; Donyo Kafui, alias Ezor, a blacksmith; Bright Alan Debrah, a fleet manager, and Gershon Akpah, a weapons mechanic at the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF).
The accused persons were sent to the Kaneshie District Court yesterday and charged with four counts – conspiracy to commit treason felony, treason felony, conspiracy to possess explosives, arms and ammunition without lawful excuse and possession of explosives, arms and ammunition without lawful excuse.
Two other soldiers — L/Cpl Albert Baba Ibrahim and L/Cpl Godwin Nii Ankrah — who were previously arraigned as being part of the plot were, however, discharged.
That was after the prosecutor, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Mr Sylvester Asare, had withdrawn three separate charge sheets in relation to the case and presented a new charge sheet which had the nine as the accused persons.
Prosecutors have accused the nine of being part of a group known as Take Action Ghana (TAG), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) which is alleged to have planned to embark on demonstrations against the government and “possibly take over the government”.
It is also the case of the prosecution that a map found in the possession of the accused persons showed some important state installations, such as the Jubilee House, the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), Burma Camp, the 37 Military Hospital and the National Police Training School, which the group had targeted.
“The map was to facilitate the movement of the accused persons during the demonstration to take over the government,” it added.
In his submission, counsel for the accused, Mr Victor Kojogah Adawudu, described the case as a set-up and argued that the prosecution’s facts were full of factual inaccuracies.
“This is a set-up and the architect of the set-up is called Sule, whom we have been told is at large,” he submitted.
He urged the court to discharge his clients on the basis that the district court had no jurisdiction to hear the case.
“Please discharge the accused because this court does not have jurisdiction to hear this matter. It is just a ploy by the state to punish innocent citizens by keeping them in custody in order to fish for evidence,” he argued.
ASP Asare, in his response, rebutted the arguments by counsel, saying they were not right in law.
He argued that the charges levelled against the accused were first degree felonies which were indictable offences and that where indictable offences were involved, the district court was the first port of call.
“Offences punishable by death or life imprisonment are first degree felonies which must be subjected to trial on indictment. With regard to trials on indictment, the district court is clothed with the jurisdiction to commit accused persons for the actual trial at the High Court,” he submitted.
He also refuted defence counsel’s assertion that the case was a set-up against the accused persons.
“The state will not waste taxpayers’ money to undertake an activity which is a set-up,” he argued.
Court has jurisdiction
In its ruling, the court, presided over by Ms Rosemond Duodu Agyiri, upheld the arguments of the prosecution that the court had jurisdiction over the case.
She said the district court was not the trial court and, therefore, it could not grant the accused bail or take their plea.
Rather, she said, the court was a committal one which was to determine whether or not the accused would stand trial at the High Court.
The magistrate advised defence counsel to seek bail at the High Court, since that would be the trial court.
The court also changed the remand custody of the accused persons from the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) to police and military custody.
That was after defence counsel had lamented about the BNI’s constant failure to allow the accused to see their lawyers and family members, in spite of the express directions of the court to that effect.
“The BNI has grossly disrespected the orders of this court and so I will change the remand facility,” the magistrate said.
Per the new remand order, the civilians are to be placed in police custody, while the soldiers are to be placed in military custody.
Hearing continues on October 28, 2019.
Curses and cries
Outside the courtroom, family members of the accused reacted to the developments with disappointment.
While some of them invoked curses on people they described as liars who were bent on destroying their loved ones, others shed tears on seeing their relatives whisked away by security persons.
Some of the accused broke down in tears as they were being led away.
Presenting the prosecution’s facts, ASP Asare told the court that the nine were members of TAG, which was founded by Dr Mac-Palm in 2018
The group, he said, planned to organise a series of demonstrations, topple the government and destabilise the country.
According to him, Dr Mac-Palm convinced Akpah, a weapons mechanic of the GAF, to provide the group with two AK 47 assault rifles to support its activities.
He said Akpah charged GH₵7,000 each for the rifles and Dr Mac-Palm made an initial deposit of GH₵2,000 but Akpah refunded the money due to constant pressure from Dr Mac-Palm.
The prosecutor said Dr Mac-Palm and Debrah convinced WO 2 Dekuwine to join the group and also requested her to recruit other soldiers.
In relation to Col Gameli, the prosecution said he agreed to join the group and held closed-door meetings with Dr Mac-Palm.
Manufacturing of weapons
According to ASP Asare, in July 2019, the group engaged the services of Kafui, a blacksmith from the Volta Region, to manufacture arms to enable them to complete their objectives.
Kafui, he explained, charged the group GH¢2,300 for each pistol and GH¢400 for each explosive.
He said the blacksmith was brought to the Citadel Hospital in Alajo, Accra to manufacture the arms.
He said Kafui was able to manufacture 22 explosives, six pistols, three hand grenades and some ammunition which he handed over to Dr Mac-Palm, whom he described as the leader of the group.
The prosecutor said based on intelligence, security operatives, on September 23, this year, arrested the members.