BNI ordered to give pirates access to counsel

AN Accra Magistrate’s Court has ordered the police and the Bureau for National Investigations (BNI) to grant access to the lawyer and relatives of the eight Nigerian pirates arrested in Ghanaian territorial waters, a month ago.

The court order followed a complaint by the accused’s lawyer, Mr. Nwosu Uche, to the court that the police had prevented him from communicating with his clients.

Prior to the ruling, the accused lawyer’s plea to the court to allow him to chat with his clients for three hours was rejected, as the Prosecutor, Chief Inspector Iddrisu Fuseini contended that the court was not an appropriate platform for such discussion.

Per the new directive, Mr. Uche can communicate with his clients twice every week on Tuesdays and Fridays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the BNI cells.

Standing trial for conspiracy to commit crime and piracy, some of the accused were brought to court barefooted ,while others were spotted half naked.

Mr. Uche, at the last sitting prayed the court to cause the two institutions to allow him access to his clients, but the Presiding Judge, Mrs. Efua Gyetowah Sackey declined the request and set yesterday to rule on the application.

He had raised issues of breach of rules contrary to the criminal procedure, and abuse of the human rights of his clients.

It was the contention of the police that individuals seeking to speak to accused persons, alleged to have committed such offences, ought to make a formal application before they are permitted to do so.

However, hearing of the case took a dramatic turn yesterday as the accused vehemently denied ever communicating with their relatives as purported by the police.

The accused told the court that they are being fed thrice everyday but were denied access to their mobile phones.

Earlier the investigator and the prosecutor, both police Chief Inspectors, told the court that an arrangement was made to allow the accused communicate with the families in Nigeria after hearing.

All the eight alleged pirates responded in the negative when Mrs. Sackey asked whether there was such an arrangement.

The pirates were arrested in Janauary, in Ghanaian territorial waters, 26 nautical miles South-East of the Tema waters after hijacking a Nigerian vessel, “MV. Mariam”, carrying about 1,500 tonnes of crude oil en route to Togo.

They are Molih Williams,32, Peggy Aki 32, Ebi Yaibo Amos, 32, Molih Klinsman, 31, Davic Jacob, 30, Ayetimiyi Oyinle, 29, Piano Saniyo, 26 and Picolo John.

Five of them were captured in the engine room, and three others, elsewhere in the vessel.

Items found on them included AK-47 assault rifles, a pump action gun, ten loaded magazines, 1,270 US dollars and 43,850 Naira cash.

Other items were mobile phones, a digital camera, a hair clipper, three VHF radio sets, seven wrist watches and personal belongings.

Their arrest followed a tip-off of a Ghana Navy ship from the Eastern Naval Command on patrol, that a ship owner had reported the hijacking of his ship carrying oil.

The Naval ship proceeded to the location, caught up with the vessel and arrested the pirates at about 3 p.m.

The case was adjourned to March 5.

By Malik Sullemana

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