AN Accra human rights high court has ordered the immediate release of Charles Antwi, who was convicted for unlawful possession of firearms on the grounds, that his conviction was “irremediably flawed”.
The court also ordered the state to cause Antwi to be medically examined at the Accra Psychiatric Hospital with immediate effect.
“I hereby order for his release to the Accra Psychiatric Hospital to be examined medically,” said Justice Ken. A. Okwabi, when he set aside the judgement of the circuit court.
The directive came barely a month after a circuit court in Accra found Antwi guilty of the said offence, and convicted him to 10 years imprisonment.
Following his conviction, the Attorney-General’s Department and a private legal practitioner and human rights lawyer, Mr. Francis Xazier Sosu, filed separate appeals asking the court to review the judgement.
Although both the A-G and Mr. Sosu were against the conviction of Antwi, they held varying positions as to how the review should be done.
While the A-G, was asking for a re-trial by way of appeal, Mr. Sosu wanted the court to quash the verdict through a certiorari.
The human rights lawyer also prayed the court to invoke its supervisory jurisdiction to cause Antwi to mental health treatment under the Mental Health Tribunal or the supervision of the court in accordance with Article 34 of the 1992 Constitution.
Mrs. Evelyn Keelson, a principal state attorney earlier argued that granting the certiorari application meant the beginning of the entire process.
She said an appeal was pending at the Appeals Court and they had been asked to make their submissions this month.
Upholding Mr. Sosu’s relief, Justice Okwabi, held that the appeal procedure being sought for by the state was not before him.
Besides, he averred that Antwi’s human rights was breached because he was not in the right frame of mind at the time he pleaded guilty.
“The law is that you enter a plea of not guilty when an accused changed his plea,” Justice Okwabi said.
He noted that the trial judge committed an error for sentencing Antwi to 10 years instead of the five years and 500 penalty units as prescribed under the criminal law.
He said the circuit court erred when it failed to sanction three basic principles of the criminal procedure which required the court to order the convict to be examined medically, subpoenae the medical doctor and take supplementary evidence.
President of the Ghana Bar Association, Nene Amegatcher, hailed the judgement, describing it as a victory for democracy.
On July 26, 2015, Antwi, a native of Dadiesoaba, in the Brong-Ahafo Region, was seen fidgeting on a seat at the Ringway Assemblies of God Church at Osu, Accra, where the first family fellowships.
A member of the congregation alerted the security and when a search was conducted on him, a locally manufacture pistol with two rounds of ammunition was found on him.
Antwi was immediately arrested to assist in investigations.
In the course of the interrogation, he admitted ownership of the gun which he bought from a Burkinabe in Nkoranza in the Brong-Ahafo Region.
He was put before court two days later and handed a 10-year jail term after confessing that he had wanted to kill President John Mahama.
His conviction sparked criticisms of the presiding judge who came under baptism of fire in the media and other social media platforms, culminating in the appeal against his incarceration.
When asked his opinion on the ruling, Mr. Sosu said: “Although the state were at liberty to re-arrest Antwi and put him before court, he is now a free man.”
He explained that the entire proceedings of the circuit court had been quashed.
He said the court’s order for Antwi to be examined, medically, was “the starting point of every criminal investigation where culprits who are believed to be of unsound mind are subjected to”.
Asked whether he can be convicted for a higher offence, he said the prosecution ought to conduct its trial bearing in mind the mental condition of the accused.
He said the right thing to do was to confine Antwi in a medical facility if he was seen as a threat to himself and the society.
Mr. Sosu said he would press for the release of the convict, who was currently detained at the Bureau of National Investigations cells within three days.
By Malik Sullemana