Ho Magistrate’s court declines to sit on treason case

A magistrate’s court in the Volta regional capital Ho has declined to sit on a case of treason involving three persons arrested by police for demanding the restoration of the Western Togoland.

The three are part of a group calling itself the Homeland Study Group Foundation and have for decades, been fighting to secede a part of Volta region from Ghana.

They are demanding the restoration of the Western Togoland which according to them stretches from Northern Region through the Upper East and Volta regions to the Gulf of Guinea. 

The three, including founder and chairman of the group, Charles Kormi Kudjordji, were put before the court Thursday after police arrested them yesterday and charged them with treason. 

Joy News correspondent Mawuli Yevu-Agbi said earlier in the morning the case, which was supposed to have been heard by the Ho High Court was moved to the magistrate’s court. 

Related: Three arrested for treason over moves to create new country in Volta Region

This, he said attracted a lot of attention.

According to him, the Magistrate declined to hear the case saying it did not have jurisdiction to hear a treason case.

A police officer Nana Asomah Hinneh told Joy News Wednesday that the activities of the men who were arrested on March 6 were illegal.

Some supporters of the group at the court premises

He said one of the men, 57, was found distributing T-shirts with an inscription which suggests that on May 9, they are going to declare independence of the Western Togoland with a different flag from that of the republic of Ghana.

“May 9, 2017, is our day,” was the inscription on the back of the T-shirt, the police commander said, explaining that was the reason they were arrested and charged with treason.  

“They told me they were educating people on the Trans-Volta Togoland and I have been very interested in that, but once they want to take a part of Ghana, they must use the legal means by going to the Supreme court,” he said. 

But the lawyer for the group said wearing a T-shirt with such an inscription does not in any way constitute any act of treason, citing Article 19 clause 17 and 18 of the 1992 Constitution. 

Related: ‘Political elements’ backing Volta Region separatist campaign – Minister

This Article states that; 

“(17) Subject to clause (18) of this article, treason shall consist only-

(a) in levying war against Ghana or assisting any state or person or inciting or conspiring with any person to levy war against Ghana; or

(b) in attempting by force of arms or other violent means to overthrow the organs of government established by or under this Constitution; or

(c) in taking part or being concerned in or inciting or conspiring with any person to make or take part or be concerned in, any such attempt.

(18) An act which aims at procuring by constitutional means an alteration of the law or of the policies of the Government shall not be considered as an act calculated to overthrow the organs of government.”

The lawyer said the police only saw people wearing T-shirts and “we all know the meaning of our day but if the police say that amounts to treason, we can all witness the humiliation they have suffered in court. We will follow them to see what they would do.”

At the end of the hearing, the accused were returned to police custody, but the Ho High Court granted them GHC50,000 bail with two sureties each.

The case has been adjourned to March 14, 2017.

After the Second World War, the political status of British Togoland changed – it became a United Nations Trust Territory, although still administered by the United Kingdom.

During the decolonisation of Africa, a plebiscite was organised in British Togoland in May 1956 to decide the future of the territory. A majority of voters taking part voted to merge the territory with the neighbouring Gold Coast, a British Crown colony.

On 13 December 1956, the United Nations General Assembly passed General Assembly resolution 1044 on “The future of Togoland under British administration”.

By that resolution, the UN acknowledged the outcome of the plebiscite held in the Territory which was a majority in favour of unity with Gold Coast, later Ghana.