Dr Opuni trial: Defence counsel wants trial Judge to step aside

Dr. Stephen Opuni

Mr Samuel Cudjoe, Counsel for Dr Stephen Opuni on Tuesday told the court that he has filed a motion seeking the trial judge, Justice Clemence Honyenugah to recuse himself from continuing with hearing the matter involving the two accused.

The motion seeks the trial judge, who is a Court of Appeal Judge sitting with additional responsibility as a High Court Judge, to stop the trial and refer the matter to the Chief Justice for reassignment.

Mr Cudjoe told the court that the applicant filed the motion on February 28, but would move the application on March 16, 2020.

“We ask that based on this motion we urged the court to wait till the determination of the motion before the case continues”.

He said when it comes to stay of execution there are statutory provisions that should be adhered to.

The Counsel said “I believed the prosecution had not read the motion paper and the affidavit, and therefore has been disabled from making an informed decision, hence their opposition”.

He said the motion is in the order of an objection for the trial judge to rescue himself from the trial.

“My lord, you are to determine the application, whether to recuse yourself or not after, hearing the motion,” he said.

He said it was not or it does not lie in the prosecution’s domain to say that the court should still go ahead with the trial when the motion was in the nature of an objection.

“We pray the court hears the application before proceeding with the trial,” he added.

Mrs Stella Ohene-Appiah, Principal State Attorney said the prosecution was of legal view that defence counsel should rather petition the Chief Justice rather than coming with such an application.

She said the motion on its own this does not make it a stay of execution.

She said the mere fact that an application was pending to be move on March 16, does not prevent the judge from proceeding with the trial.

“This can only be done unless it is determined by the court or by expressed decision”.

She said besides the three accused in the trial, the applicant (Dr Opuni) did crossed-examined the third prosecution witness (Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah) for six months and after which the Counsel for second and Third accused (Seidu Agongo and Agricult Ghana Limited) were now having their turn.

“It will be unfair to the A2/A3 also very unfair to the prosecution,” she said.

Mrs Ohene-Appiah said today’s business was for counsel for A2/A3, Mr Nutifafa Nutsukpui to cross-examined the third Prosecution witness and that it has nothing to do with Dr Opuni.

The State Attorney said they were of the view that today’s hearing should not be adjourned.

However counsel for the second and third accused Mr Nutsukpui, said having been served with the motion, he thinks that it was fit and proper for the court to consider the application before the continuation of the trial.

The court presided over by Justice Honyenugah speaking on the issues said  he asked the applicant to petition the Chief Justice rather than bringing a motion to court.

He said upon hearing the parties, he was of the view that, since an objection has been raised against the trial judge in hearing the case, it was in the interest of justice that the object rightly or wrongly be heard before the case proceeds.

“I am not oblivious of the delayed in the trial of this case and I am also aware that the application pending is not a stay of proceeding.

Consequently I will adjourned the case to March 16 for the hearing of the motion,” he added.

Dr Opuni and Mr Seidu Agogngo are facing 27 charges, including defrauding by false pretences, wilfully causing financial loss to the state, money laundering, corruption by public officer and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges and are on a GH¢300,000.00 self-recognisance bail each.

Source: GNA

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