The Accra Human Rights Court has ordered the Director of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI), Yaw Donkor, and two other officials of the bureau to appear before it in person to answer a contempt charge against them in open court.
Refusing a motion filed by the Attorney General last month, praying the court to hear the case in-camera on the basis of national security, Justice U.P Derry held that in so far as both the Police and the BNI have the same rights and protection under the Security and Intelligence Act 526, the BNI cannot be given special treatment. He argued that the police have been appearing to give evidence in court in most case and for that reason, the three BNI officials cannot claim to be undercover agents and not appear in court to answer the charges.
The judge subsequently fixed November 12, for the contempt application which was initiated by former Information Minister, Stephen Asamoah Boateng, and his family after they were prevented from travelling outside the country on two occasions without a court order. Mr. Donkor, and the two others, Josephine Gandawiri and Stephen Abrokwa had not appeared before the court to answer the charge on more than five occasions that the case has been called. On September 3, a State Attorney of the Attorney-General’s Department, Mrs. Helen Kwawukume, drew the court’s attention to the fact that the A-G department had filed an application for the case to be heard in-camera. The court thus adjourned the case to September 15, to allow the applicant’s time to file their affidavit in opposition, if any.
At the court’s sitting yesterday, Mrs. Kwawukume moved the motion praying the court to grant them an in-camera hearing of the case because the person involved are undercover agents, adding that Order 50, Rule 3 of the High Court Procedure allows the judge to ‘grant an in-camera hearing in cases that border on national security.
Mrs. Kwawukume said the officials are involved in intelligence work on behalf of the state and, therefore, “it will be inimical for their identities to be blown out”. She said it would affect their duties at their duty posts.
Counsel for Mr. Asamoah Boateng and family, Nene Amegatcher, opposed the A-G’s request for the case to be heard in-camera. He said that under Act 526, officials of the BNI are supposed to work as undercover agents, who after investigations of cases pass on information to the Police, the Serious Fraud Office and other agencies for them to act on or to the A-G for possible prosecution.
But, he said, “This is not what is happening on the ground. They wear tags with BNI inscriptions”. In the case of the three contemnors, he said they arrogated to themselves powers of arresting… “They have been arresting in public,” he said and added that their action exposed them to the public.
For example, he said for the three to have gone to the extent of boarding the aeroplane to eject Mr. Asamoah and his family exposed their identity to the more than 200 passengers on the plane. In view of these, he said the case and the three contemnors have nothing to do with national security, adding that their acts do not constitute national security worth and in-camera hearing in the case”.
The three were charged for contempt when they prevented the four applicants from travelling outside the country of June 14, 2009, without any court order or warrant, following which they filed an application seeking an injunction to restrain the BNI from further preventing them from travelling without a court order. While the application was pending, the BNI again allegedly disregarded it and prevented the four from the travelling on a second attempt.
Source: D. Graphic
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