The Adjabeng magistrate court in Accra yesterday ordered the Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) to grant access to the counsel of the eight suspected Nigerian pirates standing trial before the court.
Per the order, the BNI is to allow the lawyer of the accused persons two hours each every Tuesday and Friday between the hours of 9am and 2pm, effective today, to see his clients.
The court, presided over by Ms. Efua Gyetowah Sackey, had made the order following a complaint by Uche Nwosu, lawyer for the eight suspected pirates that he (Uche) had not been allowed to see his clients.
The accused persons are Molih Williams, Molih Klinsman, Peggy Aki, Ebiyaibo Amos, David Jacobs, Apetimiyi Onyinie, Pinano Saniyo and Picolo John.
They were reportedly arrested by the Eastern Naval Command of the Ghana Navy in Tema when they turned and entered the territorial waters of Ghana.
They are facing charges of conspiracy to commit crime and piracy. Pleas of the accused persons have not been taken.
The trial was stalled last week when the suspects, who are said to be at different locations in Accra, were not brought by the police because there was no fuel to transport them.
It may be recalled that Mr. Nwosu, at the last adjourned date, told the court that the last time he saw his clients was at the court during the previous sitting, and pointed out that having access to the accused persons had been difficult.
The lawyer told the court that the fundamental human rights of the accused persons in that regard had been grossly violated without any reason.
Same Old Story
However, the case was not different at yesterday’s sitting when Mr. Nwosu said he had still not been granted access to his clients.
‘On February 11, I drew the attention of the court to my predicaments and prosecution promised that some efforts will be made. They indicated that this being a high profile case, there are procedures which must be followed.’
It was the prayer of Mr. Nwosu that the court gave him three hours to have conference with his clients in the court, ‘if not I will still not see them.’
While regretting the difficulty he had gone through before getting a copy of the fact sheet from the prosecution, he stated that the accused persons are also entitled to copies of the fact sheets as well.
He requested that the court adjourn hearing of the case to 23, 26 and 27 February, 2015 in order to have access to his clients.
Chief Inspector Iddrisu Fuseni, opposing the request by Mr. Nwosu to have conference with the accused persons in the court said, ‘The court is not the appropriate place for counsel to have conference with his clients’.
In respect of the application filed by the lawyer, the prosecutor indicated that it would not be acted upon immediately because it had to go through processes.
Chief Inspector Fuseni said apart from the application filed by Mr. Nwosu, he (Nwosu) also failed to honour the invitation to accompany the investigator in the case to the BNI as agreed.
He explained that none of the relatives of the accused persons had come forward to visit them and had not been allowed to do so, maintaining that ‘Some of them have been given mobile phones to speak to their relations in Nigeria after court today.’
However, all eight accused persons denied any arrangements between them and the police to call their relatives in Nigeria.
When questioned by the trial judge, they claimed that all the police had done was to give them the assurance to call their relatives but had not been allowed to make any calls.
The case has been adjourned to March 5, 2015.
The prosecution had asserted that the accused persons on January 17, 2015 by force of arms seized a vessel loaded with 1,500 metric tonnes of Low Petroleum Fuel Oil (LPFO) worth $1.5 million, which was travelling from Lagos to Lome.
Prosecution said after stealing the cargo, two of the pirates joined the vessel with the oil, sped off and instructed the rest to keep watching the crew till they returned to pick them.
Prosecution stated that it was whilst waiting that the Ghana Navy personnel came to their rescue following a distress call.
By: Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson
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