The social media activist and convenor of the #FixTheCountry pressure group Oliver Barker-Vormawor has filed an application at the high court praying the court to throw out the Attorney General’s bill of indictment and summary of evidence filed against him.
Barker-Vormawor has been indicted by the state on two counts of treason felony, for actions described as contrary to Section 182(b) of the Criminal Offences Act 1960 (Act 29).
In court on Thursday (13 October 2022), counsel for the #FixTheCountry convenor Justice Srem-Sia told the court, presided over by Justice Mary Yanzuh, that he has filed the said application and served it on the state.
Assistant State Attorney Alice Odame Koranteng said when she got to her feet that the Attorney General’s Department is yet to see the application.
However, she said, the state will get it and will respond appropriately. She therefore asked the court for an adjournment so she can do the needful.
After hearing the parties, Justice Mary Yanzuh’s court ruled that the case cannot continue until the application of the accused person has been heard.
To that end, she adjourned sitting to Friday 21 October 2022, the applicant’s lawyers to move their motion.
In the statement of case supporting the application for certiorari filed by lawyers for Oliver Barker-Vormawor on 6 October 2022, the applicant argues that, contrary to legal requirements, the record of the committal proceedings conducted at the district court will show that the committal magistrates failed properly to take the statutory statement by the applicant (Barker-Vormawor).
“Particularly, the committal magistrate: (a) failed to record the applicant’s statement accurately; (b) failed to allow the applicant the liberty to explain or add to the statement he made, thereby making the record a misrepresentation of the applicant’s statement; and, most importantly, (c) failed to allow the applicant to confirm, sign or attest to the statement which is attributed to him,” the statement of case says.
“All this, My Lord, makes it very doubtful, at best, that the committal magistrate truly considered the applicant’s statement in reaching the decision that a case has been made by the prosecution to warrant a committal.
“More particular is the fact that the magistrate did not even obtain the confirmation, signature or attestation of the applicant – that the statement she recorded and considered (if at all) was a true representation of the applicant’s statement – before going ahead to commit him to stand trial,” the statement of case further says.
“The applicant’s statutory statement, to the extent that it was taken in breach of clear mandatory and essential legal requirements was, in effect, not taken at all.
“The breach in question, we contend, is fundamental and does go right to the core of the committal proceedings itself, namely, whether the magistrate truly gave a hearing to the accused person before coming to the decision to commit him to stand trial,” Barker-Vormawor’s lawyer contends in his statement of case.
Bill of indictment
The bill of indictment, dated 30 May 2022 and signed by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Yvonne Atakora Obuobisa, is now being challenged by #FixTheCountry convenor.
It notes: “Oliver Mawuse Barker-Vormawor, in February 2022, in Ghana, through a post on your Twitter social media account published to people in Ghana and the rest of the world, endeavoured to usurp the executive powers of the Republic by advocating for the violent overthrow of the constitution.”
In its summary of evidence, the state says it intends to call three witnesses at trial. They are Andrew Okyere, No 55341 Detective Constable Dunstan Guba and Detective Corporal Mark Owusu.
The state will also be tendering eight exhibits to support its case at the trial. These include the investigation cautioned statement of the accused (Oliver Barker-Vormawor) dated 11 February 2022, the charge statement of the accused dated 11 February 2022 and the investigation cautioned statement of the accused dated 16 February 2022.
The remaining exhibits are the charge statement of the accused dated 1 April 2022, Facebook and Twitter posts of the accused person from February 2021 to February 2022, a Facebook post of the accused dated 30 April 2022, an intelligence report from the Cybercrime Unit and an intelligence report from National Security.
In a series of Facebook posts that led to Barker-Vormawor’s arrest on 11 February 2022 and his ongoing prosecution, he described the Ghana Armed Forces as “useless” for not acting despite public uproar against the Electronic Transfer Levy (E-Levy), which came into effect on 1 May 2022.
“If this E-Levy passes after this cake bullshit, I will do the coup myself. Useless Army!” Barker-Vormawor wrote in one of his posts.
In another post he said: “Okay, let’s try again. If this E-Levy still passes after this cake bullshit, then may God …. Help us to resist oppressor’s rule, with all our will and might for evermore. (2x). Useless Army. Anaa, the value is the same?”
Oliver Mawuse Barker-Vormawor was picked up by the Tema Regional Police on Saturday 12 February 2022, in response to claims that he had said he would stage a coup in Ghana if Parliament passed the E-Levy Bill.
A police statement published on 12 February 2022 said that Barker-Vormawor was being kept at the Tema Regional Police Command to assist with further investigations into his social media post.
First court sitting
After charges were read to Barker-Vormawor in open court on 14 February, Assistant Superintendent of Police Sylvester Asare read the brief facts.
Acting for the accused, the lawyer Akoto Ampaw applied for bail for his client but the state opposed the application.
In her ruling at Ashaiman District Court, Magistrate Eleanor Barnes Botchway said she did not have the mandate to grant bail in a case involving a charge of treason felony.
She subsequently remanded the accused into police custody and, working with the two-week timeline required by law to have accused on remand make an appearance in court, she adjourned sitting to 28 February 2022.
The brief facts as presented in court by Detective Superintendent of Police Sylvester Asare state: “The accused person is a lawyer and convenor of a social movement, namely ‘FixTheCountry’.
“Some time in February 2022, the Ashaiman Police received a report that the accused person was inciting some groups of persons believed to be members of the FixTheCountry movement.
“That on receipt of the report, the police mounted surveillance on the accused person until his arrest at Kotoka International Airport on Friday 11 February 2022, when he arrived from the United Kingdom (UK). Preliminary investigation has revealed that accused is a lawyer and a PhD student at Cambridge University, UK.”
The facts further say that “it has also been established during investigation that the accused for some time now has been inciting some group[s] of persons through the social media [sic] to undertake an unlawful enterprise to usurp the executive powers of the Government of Ghana”.
“Pursuant to his preparation to usurp the executive powers of the Government of Ghana, accused further published on his Facebook wall that the Ghana army is useless and went ahead to declare his intention in a Facebook post to stage a coup if the Electronic Transaction Levy [sic; E-Levy] is passed by Parliament.”