President John Mahama might as well remit the remainder of the jail terms of all prisoners in Ghana if compassion was the main reason for which he remitted the remainder of the four-month jail term being served by the Montie trio, President of the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Most Rev Joseph Osei-Bonsu, has said.
Speaking in his individual capacity rather than on behalf of the Conference, Rev Osei-Bonsu said: “I was sad when I heard the news because it sets a very bad precedent. So, in future, people can do something very similar and then they can appeal to the president and then he will grant pardon.”
A statement signed and released on Monday, 22 August, by Communications Minister Dr Edward Omane Boamah said: “The President of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, has, in consultation with the Council of State and in exercise of his constitutional powers under Article 72 of the Constitution, remitted the remainder of the prison sentence imposed on three persons: Salifu Maase (alias Mugabe), Alistair Nelson, and Ako Gunn, who were sentenced to four months’ imprisonment and a fine of GHS10,000.00 each for contempt of court. The remission is effective 26th August, 2016.
“The three were sentenced on 27 July 2016 and have served part of the prison sentences imposed on them. They have also paid the GHS10,000.00 (ten thousand cedis) fines. The decision of His Excellency the President to remit their sentences on compassionate grounds follows a petition submitted to him by the contemnors appealing to the president to exercise his prerogative of mercy even as they continue to express deep remorse and regret for the unacceptable statements they made against the judiciary.
“His Excellency President Mahama takes this opportunity to remind all Ghanaians of the need to respect the institutions of state and exercise freedom of speech responsibly mindful of the need to preserve peace and national unity. The president reminds all concerned especially persons working in the media or appearing on its platforms to be circumspect and guard against the use of intemperate language which has the potential of causing unnecessary tension especially in this election year.
“The President is hopeful that all will draw lessons from the events leading to the conviction of the three persons and bear in mind the consequences of injudicious utterances.”
However, Most Rev Osei-Bonsu said Mr Mahama’s action bodes ill consequences for the country. “They are speaking of compassion. If that’s the reason, there are many more prisoners in prisons, why doesn’t he use compassion to free them all. Then also this undercuts the work of the judiciary. People threatening to kill members of the Supreme Court and they say they are sorry so you release them, so anybody can do the same thing again… I’m not happy with it,” he said.
“One would wish that the president would exercise a discretion in the use of that kind of power,” he said, adding: “The letter of the constitution may say it but the spirit of the constitution will go against it and more so when these people threatened the lives of members of the Supreme Court.”