General News of Wednesday, 7 September 2016
The general consensus on the four-month jail term handed to the three Montie FM contemnors: Salifu Maase, alias Mugabe, Alistair Tairo Nelson, and Godwin Ako Gunn by the Supreme Court of Ghana was that the jail term was too harsh, hence the decision to forgive the remainder of the jail term after having served a month, President John Dramani Mahama has said.
Mr Mahama granted the remission after a petition signed by top government officials and NDC functionaries was presented to him.
His decision generated a storm of uproar among Ghanaians. While some supported it, others condemned it. Some lawyers deemed it a slap in the face of the Judiciary.
But justifying his action on Metro TV’s Good Evening Ghana on Tuesday September 6, Mr Mahama said: “I think that the overriding consideration must be that all arms of government must act constitutionally and I swore an oath on the 7th of January, 2013 to abide by the Constitution and so every action I take must be in consonance with the constitutional provisions.”
He continued: “The young men who were called before the Supreme Court for contempt (and) for scandalising the court, even before they were called before the court, they had shown remorse and apologised for what they said. Before the court, they apologised again. When they were sentenced in mitigation, they asked for mercy and apologised, retracted everything that they said, and even after they were sentenced and left the court and went to prison they still, in written and in verbal form, expressed absolute regret for what they did.”
“I don’t know what benefit it would have been to anybody [with] the three extra months in prison. I don’t know but certainly I abided rigorously by Article 72. I received the petition from the lawyers of the three and they stated all the grounds for which they thought that I should invoke my powers under Article 72, narrating every step of the way the regret they had shown and pleading for mercy and so I did exactly what the constitution said I should do. I referred it to the Council of State and the Council of State came back to me and recommended that I exercise my powers under (Article) 72 not in terms of pardoning them. They remain convicted. … They paid GHS30,000 in fines; that money is in the state’s coffers. But what I did was, instead of letting them spend four months in prison, they spent one month in prison.
“Indeed, if you look at the conviction and the sentencing, the general consensus was that four months was quite a harsh punishment to have imposed for that kind of crime; I believe I acted constitutionally and it was in the interest for Ghana.”