Chief State Attorney Evelyn Keelson asks retired Justice Honyenuga to reject Opuni’s excuse notice
The Chief State Attorney, Evelyn Keelson, ruffled feathers in court on Tuesday when she requested that former COCOBOD boss Dr. Stephen Opuni who is recuperating from eye surgeries, should be tried virtually.
Dr. Opuni, who had four different surgeries on his left eye in September, has been advised to rest his eye to ensure proper healing.
The former COCOBOD Chief Executive, Dr. Stephen Opuni, and businessman Seidu Agongo as well as Agricult Ghana Limited, have been facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers and contravention of the Public Procurement Act in the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser between 2014 and 2016.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognisance bail each.
When the High Court reconvened on October 11, counsel for Dr. Opuni, Mr. Samuel Codjoe, informed the court that his client was unable to make it to court because he had been excused for six weeks due to ill health and had been advised not to get involved in any activity.
Counsel showed the court medical records as well as the excuse notice to that effect and prayed for adjournment, stressing that his client was not waiving his right under Article 19 (3).
But the Chief State Attorney was averse to the adjournment and therefore contested it.
Evelyn Keelson, who has been at the forefront of the prosecution’s case, having signed the charge sheet which formed the basis for the trial in 2018, suggested means the court can circumvent Article 19 (3) cleanly.
“My lord, in the alternative, this court can sit virtually to accommodate the first accused…It is, therefore, our submission that this court, in the exercise of its discretion, can proceed with the case without infringing on Article 19(3) since the doctor’s opinion for the accused to stay for six weeks is not binding on this court,” Evelyn Keelson told the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga who recently retired from the Supreme Court.
She had earlier conceded: “My lord, I have seen a medical report indicating that the first accused has had surgery on his left eye, and in that report, the medical director has indicated that he needs six weeks to rest the eye for proper healing.”
Evelyn Keelson, nonetheless, told Justice Honyenuga, “respectful my lord, this statement by the medical director is not binding on this honourable court. My lord, the medical director did not indicate the basis for the six weeks he has indicated in the report.”
She, therefore, prayed to the court to invite the medical director who gave the excuse notice to Dr. Opuni to give further and better particulars to his request.
Lawyer Samuel Codjoe however, told Evelyn Keelson that her submissions were “not only factually inaccurate but seek to infringe on the right of the first accused.”
He pointed out paragraph 10 of the medical report to the. Chief State Attorney to counter her claim that the doctor didn’t give reasons for the excuse duty.
“My lord, the chief state attorney has not gotten any medical knowledge to speak the way she is doing.
“My lord, we don’t have any problem with inviting the medical doctor because no one has a monopoly over good health.
“My lord, what is unfortunate is that the prosecution is saying the first accused, who is sick and is not supposed to engage in any activity, should sit in a virtual trial. So he should lie down or what? My lord, this is unacceptable even in military regimes,” he asserted.
Lawyer Codjoe further remarked, “My lord, the prosecution is saying that despite the fact that the first accused is ill, the first accused should be put on trial. This will take us back to the dark days when we did not have a constitution.”
Meanwhile, retired Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, who is sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court judge, ordered the medical director to appear before him on the next adjourned date “in order to clear any doubts about the medical report before this court”.
The retired judge has therefore directed the Registrar of the Court to ensure that the doctor is served with the order for him to tell the court about the medical records of Dr. Opuni.
The sitting was adjourned to Monday, October 17 2022.