Kuranchie, Atubiga Jailed

Kwaku-BoahenThe Supreme Court yesterday slapped two of the people it summoned to appear before it for contempt, with jail terms.

Ken Kuranchie, Editor of the ‘Darly Searchlight’ newspaper was sentenced to 10 days in jail for a front page comment in the June 27, 2013 edition of his paper, whilst Stephen Atubiga, a member of the NDC Communication team, was given a three-day term for comments he made during a radio programme.

The bench held that Kuranchie did not show any remorse for his comments, meaning that they were made with the intent, thus leaving the judges in no doubt that he (Kuranchie) supported the comments by Sammy Awuku, a Deputy Communication Director of the New Patriotic party (NPP) that the judges were hypocritical and selective.
The court said even though Mr. Awuku had apologized to the court and was remorseful, Kuranchie supported his comments which clearly exposed his intent.

“In view of your belligerent stance, the court has found you guilty of criminal contempt and has accordingly, sentenced you to 10 days imprisonment,” Justice William Atuguba, presiding over the nine-member panel hearing the 2012 Presidential Election Petition, pronounced.

The court acknowledged Stephen Atubiga’s expression of remorse for his utterances but noted the seriousness of the utterances and sentenced him to three days imprisonment for being guilty of criminal contempt.
The third person, Kweku Boahen, was, however, left off the hook after convincing the judges that the statement made on both Angel and Boss FM radio stations which were carried in the New Statesman newspaper, were false.

He told the court that the New Statesman newspaper had retracted those comments and even apologised to him.
It was upon this that the court dismissed him.
The nine-member panel of judges, after hearing comments from the contemptnors,  withdrew into chambers for one hour 17 minutes before returning to deliver their ruling.

Before their sentence, Atubiga apologised to the court and informed the bench that he had been apologising since he heard of his summons to the court, and said he would not like to repeat those comments before the bench.
“I apologise for my irresponsible comments; I started apologising way back before I was summoned. If I was given another chance, I will apologise and will not repeat them,” he said.

Mr. Boahen, for his part, said he had taken full responsibility for the utterances and apologised for crossing the line, and pleaded with the court to tamper justice with mercy.

Counsel for the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr. Tsatsu Tsikata, then rose to plead with the court that Atubiga had withdrawn and apologized unconditionally for the comments he made and should be given another opportunity to apologise to the court.
Atubiga said he would use any platform he appeared on in future to apologise and conscientise people against making unguarded statements.

At this stage, Justice Atuguba remarked that politicians thought they were too clever, stubborn and with the executive power, they could do all they wanted.

“There are three arms of government and the Judiciary can also bite,” he warned.
Justice Atubuga referred to Atubiga’s failed ambition of becoming the Member of Parliament (MP) for Binduri and wondered the kind of leadership he would have provided his people if he had won.

Asked by Justice Atuguba if he wanted to create confusion for poor people to suffer, he replied in the negative, to which Justice Atuguba remarked, “this court will not allow those poor people to suffer”. Mr. Tsikata, at this point, rose again to apologise on Atubiga’s behalf and assured the court that counsel in the hearing would not cover up for bad behaviour, and prayed the court to tamper justice with mercy.

Mr. Tony Lithur, counsel for President John Mahama, and James Quarshie-Idun, counsel for the Electoral Commission, associated themselves with Mr. Tsikata’s plea.

Philip Addison, lead counsel for the petitioners, also supported the respondents counsel’s plea to the court to tamper justice with mercy.
He assured the court that it was the last time he would plead on anybody who would make contemptuous statements in the on-going presidential election petition hearing.

Before calling Boahen into the dock, Justice Atuguba reminded Atubiga that he came from a war-torn village and should know the repercussions of the comments he made, and added that as a professional electrician and businessman, he could easily burn markets in any chaotic situation.

Boahen told the court that those comments attributed to him were false and meant to dent his credibility.
He insisted that he never made such comments and pleaded with the court to investigate the matter.
Boahen showed a copy of the Statesman newspaper’s apology in its July 2, edition for wrongly attributing the comments to him.
Mr. Tsikata again rose and cited some media houses for false representation, saying that they should be made clear of the authority of the court and the orders it had given.

Justice Jones Dotse, a member of the panel, noted that there was the tendency of some media houses equalizing the equation and that the court would not shift the goal line until the final determination of the hearing. “The court will not allow it to be driven into that type of equalization,” he said.

When Kuranchie was called into the dock, his lead counsel, Atta Akyea, argued that his client sought to question the Supreme Court as to what to comment on and what not to comment on.

He said there was no trace that Kuranchie tried to prejudice the court in his editorial and was confused as to why he was hauled before the court. Justice Paul Baffoe-Bonnie, another member of the panel, wondered why Atta Akyea’s client would cite the judges for being hypocritical and selective.

When counsel tried to explain, the bench asked him to sit down and allow Kuranchie to answer questions to be posed to him.
Kuranchie wanted to know his charge before his explanation, but later insisted that his comments were related to Sammy Awuku’s previous statements, and added that if the court considered his comment as in bad taste, then he would apologise.  But the bench questioned whether his apology was conditional, hence the use of the word ‘if’.

Atta Akyea intervened to indicate to the court that his client did not understand cues being given by the bench.
Justice Atuguba then intervened to say that as an editor of a newspaper, Kuranchie should understand the issue and be allowed to express his opinion freely without any form of coercion.

Kuranchie subsequently rendered an apology after which his counsel also prayed the court to be lenient with his client in whatever decision they would take.

He also prayed the court to take into consideration, the client’s apology on his comments. At that stage the court went on recess and returned after one hour 17 minutes to deliver its ruling.- Winston Tamakloe

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