Sir John Before Atuguba Today

Sir John (2)The General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, popularly known as ‘Sir John’, and Hopeson Adorye, a member of the NPP Communications Team, will appear before the Supreme Court today to show cause why they should not be committed to prison for being guilty of criminal contempt of the court.

The contemptuors were last Friday, August 9, 2013, summoned to appear before the court today via summons signed and issued by the Registrar of the court.

The court on July 8, 2013, during the hearing of the on-going petition, cited a front page story, in The Enquirer newspaper, relating to Mr. Afriyie and that of Mr. Adorye was an interview with Time FM at Obuasi in Ashanti and the Daily Post newspaper purported to be threatening to cut the heads of supporters of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), if the on-going 2012 election petition did not go in favour of the petitioners.

The Bench expressed misgivings about the two contemptuous utterances and indicated that they would advise themselves accordingly.
Describing the statements attributed to the two persons as contemptuous, Justice William Atuguba, the presiding Judge of the nine-member panel, referred to the publication in The Enquirer newspaper attributed to Mr. Afriyie, as contemptuous.

However, on the said date, the court did not mention the voice of the person on the audio recording but indicated that it would call for the audio recording. The summons mentioned Mr. Adorye as the person who granted the interview on Time FM and the Daily Post newspaper.

The summons was based on the grounds that the comments they made had been considered to scandalise the court and lower its authority and credibility in the eyes of the general public, exciting hatred prejudice and ill-will towards President John Mahama, the Electoral Commission (EC) and the NDC.

The summons signed and issued by the Registrar of the Supreme Court, James Mensah on August 9, 2013 in respect of Mr. Afriyie quoted The Enquirer newspaper front page headline as: that ‘Sir John’ descends on Justice Atuguba….. called him hypocrite, a joker who pampers Tsikata, scolds Addison”.

In respect of Mr. Adorye, the summons referred to the Monday July 8, 2013 issue of the Daily Post newspaper on the front page banner titled “We shall cut the heads of NDC supporters if …….Supreme Court declares Prez Mahama winner” and did say in an interview with Time FM, on June 26, 2013 that “the NPP will……go on a head cutting spree, cutting off the heads of NDC supporters should the Supreme Court declare President Mahama the winner”.

Reacting to the summons yesterday, Mr. Afriyie said the court had the right to invite him and appealed to party faithful to remain calm and that his invitation did not warrant misconduct by them.

For his part, Mr. Adorye said the newspaper quoted him out of context but promised to avail himself in court.
Before summoning the two contemptuors, during the hearing, Justice Atuguba noted, “If we take action and we don’t act, it will look lopsided. We have called for the tape and the person who talked about cutting of heads will be dealt with accordingly”.

He said it was not a pleasant thing to be summoning people but they had been left with no choice, indicating that the implications of not fulfilling that duty of summons could be grave.

Subsequent to the initial actions taken, Justice Atuguba warned that even though there had been some moderation, they would be unravelled.

He indicated that some of the publications were contemptuous and cited The Enquirer and the Daily Post newspapers and the audio recording and said,“in the course of time, we shall deal with that.”
Pointing out that there was nothing to gain in championing extremist ideas of the right to free speech, he cautioned that the limitations were there but the public were of the view that it must be sustained without upholding those limitations.

It will be recalled that on July 2, 2013, the court jailed two persons and barred another from attending the hearings of the petition for contemptuous comments.

They were the Editor of The Daily Searchlight newspaper, Kenneth Kuranchie and Stephen Atubiga, a member of the NDC Communications team.

Atubiga and Kuranchie were sentenced to three and 10 days imprisonment respectively  for falling foul of the court’s order to the public to desist from engaging in prejudicial statements about the on-going petition hearing.
They have since been released after serving their sentences.

The court on June 24, 2013 warned that it would crack the whip on anyone who crossed the final touchline by making prejudicial comments and distortion of facts at the on-going petition.

It was for contravening this order that Atubiga and Kuranchie were found guilty of criminal contempt.

Sammy Awuku, the Deputy Communications Director of the NPP, who had earlier accused the court of being ‘selective’ and ‘hypocritical’ for expressing his displeasure over the Daily Guide newspaper report was left off the hook of guilty of criminal contempt but barred from the hearing until its determination.

Another issue which would occupy the attention of the court today would be clarification in the voluminous legal addresses filed by the litigants the on-going 2012 presidential election petition after which 15 days thereafter the court would give its verdict.

On August 7, 2013, the court allowed all the parties 30 minutes each to battle it out with words to convince the Bench to rule in their favour.

Counsel for the petitioners and those for the respondents  had been at each others ‘ throat’ for the past seven months when the 2012 presidential candidate of NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, his running mate, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia ,and the national chairman of the NPP, Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, took the landmark case to the Supreme Court.

They have prayed the court to annul the EC’s declaration of President Mahama winner of the 2012 election.

Delivering his address, at the court on July 7, 2013,Tsatsu Tsikata, lead counsel for the NDC on whose ticket President Mahama stood for the election, described the petitioners case as “factually empty and legally pathetic.”

He therefore urged the court to dismiss the case saying “respectfully my Lords, we believe that the petition has been factually empty in terms of not having any supportable evidence being advanced; it’s been shown to be legally pathetic because the claims that are being made have no legal standing whatsoever, especially this claim about serial numbers.”

Tony Lithur, lead counsel for President Mahama, insisted that his client “won the election fair and square.”

He said: “The petitioners poured over paper, novel prepositions such as duplicate serial numbers and wanted legitimate votes duly annulled by limiting this serious exercise to what happened only on the face of the pink sheets, with Dr. Bawumia’s confessing, “you and I were not there,” doing his cross-examination.”

Lead counsel for the EC, James Quarshie –Idun, prayed the court to consider the importance of how the ballots were counted in public after the close of pools, taking the ballots to the collation centres and the strongroom of the EC where they were checked by accredited agents of all the political parties involved in the elections, as the three levels of verification, which were the pillars of transparency.

He argued that the petitioners throughout the hearing did not question the process of verifiability of Ghana’s electoral system, since the six categories of irregularities presented by them had not established any casual linkages between those allegations and the declaration of the results by the EC.

Philip Addison, lead counsel for the petitioners, contended that at the time of filling their addresses the petitioners had dwelt on 10,119 pink sheets and that the respondents could not pretend that they did not know the polling stations in controversy, because the petitioners, in their further and better particulars, gave details of all the polling stations they intended to rely on.

He pointed out that when the results were annulled, President Mahama’s votes would be reduced by two million votes, and that of Nana Akufo-Addo by one million votes, saying with that, President Mahama would now poll 41.79 per cent of valid votes cast while Nana Akufo Addo would poll 56.86 per cent of valid votes cast, with emphasis on valid votes. –  Winston Tamakloe

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