Prof. Kwaku Asare, also known as Kwaku Azar, a Ghanaian lawyer based in the United States, is challenging police prosecutors’ decision to charge FixTheCountry convener Oliver Barker-Vormawor with treason felony after the latter said he would stage a coup if the controversial Electronic Transaction Levy, also known as E-levy, is passed into law.
According to Prof. Azar, the constitution clearly states out what actions constitute treason, and there is no indication that Mr. Baker-Vormawor’s comment, however offensive, comes close to being regarded treasonous.
“You must declare war against Ghanafuo, or assist, incite, or conspire with another country or person to declare war against Ghanafuo, or you must attempt to overthrow the organs of government by force of arms or other violent means, or you must take part in either the war or the overthrow,” he said in a Facebook post on Monday.
“I find Osagyefo’s words about “coup and army” reprehensible, but I don’t think they’re treacherous,” he continued.
Prof. Azar supported keeping the government in check and promoting public accountability, but he rejected threats of coups to overthrow governments.
On his return to the country on Friday, February 11, Mr. Barker-Vormawor was arrested at the Kotoka International Airport.
According to a police statement, his detention was prompted by a comment he made on social media channels to the effect that if the contentious Electronic Transaction Levy, often known as E-levy, is signed into law, he would launch a coup.
After images of the E-levy cake at the Majority Leader’s 65th birthday party went viral, Oliver Barker-Vormawor made the post.
He made his first court appearance on Monday, February 14, 2022. Mr. Barker-lawyer, Vormawor’s Akoto Ampaw, requested that the court grant him bail, but the prosecutor, ASP Sylvester Asare, objected and requested that he be remanded due to the seriousness of the case.
As a result, he was remanded in detention and is scheduled to appear in court on February 28, 2022.
Read Prof. Azar’s post below:
Treason is a unique crime. First, it is the only crime defined by the Constitution. Second, it is tried by a high court, consisting of 3 Judges. Third, the conviction must be unanimous.The Constitution’s definition of treason and the requirement for a unanimous 3-judge panel for conviction are intended to prevent its abuse and misuse by the government against people engaged in legitimate political opposition.
This is why Article 19(18) loudly says “An act which aims at procuring by constitutional means an alteration of the law or of the policies of the Government shall not be considered as an act calculated to overthrow the organs of government.”What then is treason?According to the Constitution, “treason shall consist ONLY (a) in levying war against Ghana or assisting any state, or person or inciting or conspiring with any person to levy war against Ghana; or (b) in attempting by force of arms or other violent means to overthrow the organs of government established by or under this Constitution; or (c) in taking part or being concerned in or inciting or conspiring with any person to make or take part or be concerned in, any such attempt.
”You must declare war or assist, incite or conspire with another country or person to declare war against Ghanafuo or you must attempt, not by words, hyperbole, or satire, but by force of arms or some other violent means to overthrow the organs of government, or you must take part in either the war or the overthrow.In effect, treason is not some petty charge to be thrown about whenever the security services find a statement that uses war, overthrow, or both.
Levying war means actual waging of war and force of arms means a force of arms!Law enforcement had no business charging Kennedy Agyepong with treason when he verbally declared war in reaction to attacks on NPP supporters during the 2012 biometric registration exercise.
At that time, I condemned his comments as despicable and unbecoming of a legislator but opined that it came nowhere near being treasonous as defined by the Constitution.Likewise, I find comments made by Osagyefo on “coup and army” as despicable but find that those statements come nowhere near being treasonous. We have a duty to hold the government and other officeholders accountable and can discharge this duty without veiled references to coup and overthrow of the Constitution.
GOGO also condemns the security forces for failing to follow due process by holding Osagyefo longer than the stipulated 48 hours.GOGO calls on the judiciary to start protecting the citizens’ due process rights by holding the police accountable for violations, including releasing accused persons as a consequence of violating their due process rights.
The Police will never take the due process seriously if they know there is no penalty for violating it.