The 14 accused persons who have so far mounted the witness box to open their defence told the court they are not illegal miners but rather hunters who travelled from Niger to hunt for game disputing Prosecution charges of conspiracy to commit crime with mining, mining without license and mining in a forest reserve.
The court in an earlier hearing dismissed the fourth count of trespassing into forest reserve without authorization hence acquitted and discharged the accused on that count.
Cross examining each of the accused persons in court on Thursday, the Prosecutor Cyril Boateng Keteku, the Deputy Eastern Regional State Attorney adduced from the evidence and exhibits tendered in during the initial stage of the trial by the Principal witnesses which are officials of the Forestry Commission and the Police Investigator to discredit claims of hunting exposition by the accused persons.
Some of the accused persons told the court they were arrested while walking along the boundaries of the forest without engaging in any activity.
The Prosecutor told the Court that, the accused persons claims contradicts their cautions statements taken by the Police as well as evidences captured during their arrest in the forest, hence the accused persons’ narrations in court are afterthoughts therefore not being credible.
The court presided over by Her Honour Mercy Adei Kotei adjourned the case to May 24, 2017 for the rest of the accused persons to open their defence.
The 29 accused persons were arrested on January 26, 2017, by a team of Forestry Taskforce comprising of Police, Military and Personnel of the Forestry Services Division on their routine patrols in the forest, chanced upon the accused persons at about 5:00am. Using sophisticated mining equipment to excavate the soil to prospect for gold and other minerals in the forest reserve without license and were arrested even through some managed to escape.
The accused persons arrested during the swoop are: Mohammed Omar, Mohammed Haruna, Amadu Basar, Dauda Zinjima, Amar Mohamed, Kassin Bramah, Mahamudu Arubakari and Sitah Zibo.The others are Hamidu Amadu, Musah Iddrisu, Munkaila Bomboro , Omaru Sulemana ,Addul M. Hudu, Zibo Alibu,Haruna Mumuni, Abdulai K. Kibo, Bukari Musah, Musah Ahmed and Sulley Aadum.
The rest are Munkaila Salifu, Yakuba Adamu, Yao Denay, Fuseini Amadu, Gubar Jatah, Barim Sribil, Hamza Gudiah Nameh Keita and Jibril Amidu.
25 out of the accused persons are Nigerians while the others are from Burkina Faso, Guinea Conakry, Mali and Togo.