Heavy military, police presence in Ho, 10 Suspected secessionists in court
There was heavy military and police presence in Ho yesterday when 10 members of the Homeland Study Group Foundation which is calling for the secession of parts of the Volta and the Oti regions to form a Western Togoland state were sent to court.
The security presence was also linked to the alleged threats by the group to carry out its decision to declare the independence of Western Togoland yesterday,?May 9.
A number of police and military vehicles, with heavily armed personnel, were positioned within the vicinity of the court where the 10 suspects, including a traditional ruler, were being tried.
Armoured cars and other military vehicles also patrolled the Volta Regional capital, with people looking on in awe.
Although eight leading members of the foundation were arrested and sent to Accra for prosecution, the ‘Western Togoland nation’ had vowed to carry out the secession plan.
The 10 members of the group were arrested last Monday for allegedly preparing to organise a public meeting in solidarity with their leaders, who were arrested last weekend.
The 10 were arraigned before the Ho District Court.
They are Richard Adzaleh, 42, a mobile phone repairer; Vivor Kwaku, 34, driver; Creatson Mortey, 34, a national service person; Hope Hor, 39, film director; Gideon Fudzi, 77, farmer, and Joseph Johnson Kwame, 52, farmer.
The others are Sheshime Gladys, 57, trader; Gideon Agbodzie ,55, farmer; Baby Yawo Kpetsey, 48, farmer, and Togbe Kwasi Adzimah IV, 57, traditional ruler.
All the accused persons pleaded not guilty to a charge of preparation to take part in a public meeting, contrary to Section 19 of the Criminal Code Act 29 of 1960 and Section 9 (c) of the Public Order Act 491 of 1994.
The court, presided over by Mr Ebenezer Kweku Ansah, granted them bail in the sum of GH¢500 each, with a surety who should be a public servant.
That was after their counsel, Mr Emile Atsu Agbakpe, had pleaded with the court to grant them bail to reduce the tension the arrests had brought to Ho.
Offence did not exist
Counsel argued that the offence with which the 10 had been charged did not exist in law and that the police were just trying to “make a mountain out of a molehill”.
He described the heavy armed police and military presence on the court premises as causing fear and panic among the public.
The accused persons, he said, had not committed any crime by belonging to an association of their choice and that unless there was a prohibition against the Homeland Study Group Foundation, people had the right to belong to the group if they so wished.
He argued that the police could not arrest people at will because they belonged to a group which was lawful.
However, the prosecutor, Chief Superintendent Mr Akolgo Yakubu Ayamga, maintained that the accused persons had committed a crime for attempting to hold a public meeting without prior notice to the police and added that the prosecution was ready to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.
Presenting the facts to the court, Chief Supt Ayamga said the accused persons were official members of the Homeland Study Group Foundation in the Hohoe and the Keta areas of the Volta Region and had interest to secede part of the Volta and the Oti regions of Ghana to form a Western Togoland state.
According to him, on May 5, 2019, the Leader of the group, Charles Kwame Kudzordzi, and seven others were arrested by the police and sent to Accra where they are standing trial on treason, felony and unlawful assembly charges.
Following their arrest, the police had information that the accused persons were planning to hold a special event in solidarity with the arrest of their leader.
About 7 a.m. on May 5, 2019, the accused persons, who had not notified the police of their intention to hold a public meeting, the prosecutor said, organised about 80 people to assemble at Barracks New Town in Ho for the event.
In preparation, canopies were erected, while two vehicles were arranged to carry members of the group from Anlo and Hohoe to the said meeting.
The police subsequently arrested and screened them and the 10 were identified as the organisers of the meeting and, therefore, charged with the offence.