Ghana’s presidency has received a petition from two private legal practitioners seeking a presidential pardon for a radio host and his two panellists who have been handed a four-month prison term for contempt.
The three, Godwin Ako Gunn and Alistair Nelson (the panellists), and the host, Salifu Maase of Accra-based Montie FM, were sentenced Wednesday by the Supreme Court after it found them guilty of contempt on July 18 for making threatening statements against the justices of the apex court.
The court deemed their utterances and action as being contemptuous and scandalising the sanctity of the Court.
They are each to pay a GHC10,000- fine by close of day July 28 failure of which they will each serve addition one month in prison.
But the lawyers, Nana Ato Dadzie and George Loh have petitioned President John Mahama on behalf of the convicts, urging him to invoke his executive power under the 1992 Constitution to give the three a presidential pardon.
Article 72(1) states as follows:
The President may, acting in consultation with the Council of State-
(a) grant to a person convicted of an offence a pardon either free or subject to lawful conditions; or
(b) grant to a person a respite, either indefinite or for a specified period, from the execution of punishment imposed on him for an offence; or
(c) substitute a less severe form of punishment for a punishment imposed on a person for an offence; or
(d) remit the whole or part of a punishment imposed on a person or of a penalty or forfeiture otherwise due to Government on account on any offence.
Although the lawyers admitted the comments made by the convicts were unacceptable, ” We nevertheless consider custodial sentence of four months imposed by the Supreme Court as being excessive and harsh”.
In their view, Ghanaians ought not be committed to prison for infractions in the exercise of their constitutional right of free expression, especially so when country’s criminal libel law has been repealed in 2001.
“Our clients have directed us in the circumstances to petition His Excellency the President of the Republic to exercise his powers of prerogative of mercy under Article 72 of the Constitution of Ghana,” the petition said.
By Stephen Kwabena Effah|3news.com|Ghana