8:51, 23.Aug 2016
President John Mahama will not suffer any collateral electoral damage for remitting the remainder of the four-month jail term imposed on the Montie 3, Prof Stephen Kwaku Asare, a US-based Ghanaian lawyer has said.
According to him, no voter will either vote for or against the president in the December 7 polls just because he has decided to free the three convicts.
Prof Asare also said lawyers opposing the president’s action are only doing politics. According to him, Mr Mahama is not the only President of the fourth republic to have remitted the sentences of convicts, citing several examples done by former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings, John Kufuor and John Mills. He, therefore, wondered why critics are “fabricating” a conflict situation between the Executive arm of government and the Judiciary in the case of the Montie 3.
He expressed disagreement with critics who say Mr Mahama was stampeded into granting the remission to the trio for political expediency since Ghana goes to the polls on December 7.
“No media person should be sentenced to prison for expressing an opinion,” Prof Asare said, asking: “Why are they imprisoning media persons for expressing their opinion?”
His views dovetail into sentiments expressed by the National Organiser of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Kofi Adams, who described critics of the president’s action as “nation wreckers” who do not respect constitutional democracy.
Critics such as former Attorney General Nii Ayikoi Otoo, legal practitioners Maurice Ampaw and Egbert Faibille Jnr., have all kicked against the remission granted the trio by the president. While Mr Ayikoi Otoo said Mr Mahama had proven to be a president for the NDC, Mr Faibille Jnr. said the president has undermined the authority of the Supreme Court. Mr Ampaw also argued that the president had succumbed to political expediency.
Mr Adams, however, told Chief Jerry Forson on Accra100.5FM’s breakfast show, Ghana Yensom, on Tuesday 23 August that the president did nothing wrong in remitting the remainder of the four-month jail sentence imposed on Salifu Maase (Mugabe), Alistair Nelson, and Godwin Ako Gunn for scandalising the court and bringing its name into disrepute.
Mr Adams argued that just like Mr Mahama, past presidents including Mr Jerry John Rawlings, Mr John Kufuor and Prof John Mills also granted remissions to criminals and convicts, and thus President Mahama has done nothing unusual by exercising his prerogative of mercy.
A statement signed and released on Monday, 22 August, by Communications Minister Dr Edward Omane Boamah said: “The President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, has, in consultation with the Council of State and in exercise of his constitutional powers under Article 72 of the Constitution, remitted the remainder of the prison sentence imposed on three persons: Salifu Maase (alias Mugabe), Alistair Nelson, and Ako Gunn, who were sentenced to four months' imprisonment and a fine of GHS10,000.00 each for contempt of court. The remission is effective 26th August, 2016.”
“The three were sentenced on 27th July, 2016 and have served part of the prison sentences imposed on them. They have also paid the GHS 10,000.00 (ten thousand cedis) fines. The decision of His Excellency the President to remit their sentences on compassionate grounds follows a petition submitted to him by the contemnors appealing to the president to exercise his prerogative of mercy even as they continue to express deep remorse and regret for the unacceptable statements they made against the judiciary.
“His Excellency President Mahama takes this opportunity to remind all Ghanaians of the need to respect the institutions of state and exercise freedom of speech responsibly mindful of the need to preserve peace and national unity. The president reminds all concerned especially persons working in the media or appearing on its platforms to be circumspect and guard against the use of intemperate language which has the potential of causing unnecessary tension especially in this election year.
“The President is hopeful that all will draw lessons from the events leading to the conviction of the three persons and bear in mind the consequences of injudicious utterances.”
But in a Facebook post moments after the announcement, Mr Faibille Jnr. said: “President Mahama has attacked the judiciary in a most unacceptable manner with the remission of the sentences of the Montie 3.”