Opuni trial: First accused wants trial Judge to abandon trial

Counsel for Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, Former Chief Executive of COCOBOD and two others have filed two separate applications at the High Court and the Court of Appeal respectively.

The application filed at the High Court was a motion on notice for the trial Judge, Justice Clemence Jackson Honyenuga, to abandon the trial for another judge in his stead.

The Second application, which was filed at the Court of Appeal was a repeat application for a stay of proceedings pending the determination of an Appeal at the same Court.

The parties filed the repeat application after the High Court dismissed their initial application to stay proceedings pending an Appeal.

The High Court ordered Dr Opuni and Seidu Agongo, the Chief Executive Officer of Agricult Ghana Limited to open their defence after the State had established a prima facie case against them.

The Court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga, in its ruling on a submission of no case, said the prosecution had succeeded in proving the essential ingredients in the charges levelled against the accused persons except for three charges on money laundering.

“The Court is convinced that this matter was very sensitive and prosecution has been able to make a prima facie case against the accused persons,” he said.

Dr Opuni, the first accused person was asking the trial Judge to refer the suit to the Chief Justice for reassignment to another Judge.

He is praying for an order for Justice Honyenuga, sitting as an additional High Court Judge to recuse himself from further hearing of the trial.

According to the first accused said the motion was on the grounds of breach of Article 19 (2) (e) & (g) of the 1992 Constitution and for real likelihood of bias and asked the trial Judge to refer the suit to the Chief Justice, amend same for it to be “re-assigned to another judge on the grounds as contained in the accompanying affidavit.”

The first accused said the learned Judge stated in open court that he had to complete the case quickly to enable him concentrate on his duties at the Supreme Court as the case had been pending for the past three years thereby affecting his work in the Supreme Court.

The first accused said the learned Judge, having stated in open court that he was in hurry to hear the case, such that he refused to give him an additional four days to enable him adequately prepare for the case, it had become clear to him that he would not be given adequate time and facilities to prepare for his defence as stipulated by Articles 19 (2) (e) and (g) of the 1992 Constitution.

Justice Honyenuga after hearing the parties said “in view of the filing of an application to recuse myself from hearing the matter and also the pendency of a repeat application at the Court of Appeal, the trial is adjourned to June 9, 2021.”

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

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

Source: GNA

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