International human rights advocacy group, Amnesty International, has backed calls for a presidential pardon for the jailed Montie FM panelists and host if they show genuine remorse for their actions.
According to the group, the convicted men have every right to petition the President to exercise his prerogative of mercy and sanction their release from the Nsawam prison.
“We believe that they can ask for a pardon and when that pardon is given we will accept it. The President has that prerogative of mercy to pardon people who are put into prison. If we believe that these people have realized their faults and are pleading for mercy, we will encourage the president to look at that if it is within his power to pardon them,” the country Director for Amnesty International, Lawrence Amesu told Citi News.
Alistair Nelson, Godwin Ako Gunn and Salifu Maase, alias Mugabe, were sentenced to serve four months in jail , after being found guilty of contempt by the Supreme Court, for threatening the lives of the judges who were presiding over a case on the credibility of the voters’ register. The trio reiterated their regret for their comments and called on the President to bear in mind the embarrassment their conduct and incarceration has caused their loved ones, in his consideration of the petition and reverse the “harsh and excessive” sentence.
“In petitioning Your Excellency the President of the Republic of Ghana, to exercise your prerogative of mercy, we humbly ask you also to please take into consideration the fact that we have young families who have been embarrassed and devastated by our unfortunate conduct and our subsequent incarceration,” they said. They added that they had been “carried away” in their discussion on the ‘Pampaso’ show on Montie FM but had “never intended to harm anybody.”
Pressure has been mounted on the President from his party and from within his own government to pardon the three. A book, opened by a group calling itself the Research and Advocacy Platform (RAP), garnered several signatures including those of high-profile government officials including Sam Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, Elizabeth Ofosu-Agyare and the Education Minister, Jane Naana Opoku Agyemang.
Other notable people who signed the petition include the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, founder of the Ghana Freedom Party, Akua Donkor and an official at the presidency, Valerie Sawyerr.
That petition, and another from the trio’s lawyers and the owners of Montie FM have since been presented to President Mahama. A counter petition book seeking the President’s dismissal of the earlier petitions has been opened by the Progressive Peaople’s Party (PPP) and signed by the party’s flagbearer Papa Kwesi Nduom.
There have been suggestions that pardoning the contemnors would send a wrong message to media practitioners that any offensive comments they make will go unpunished. However, Lawrence Amesu, dismissed them, stating that the widespread condemnation of the comments made by the three on the Accra-based radio station and the public nature of their trial and incarceration will deter any potential offenders.
“Pardoning them does not mean that you are giving way for people to commit more crimes. Many people are going to take a cue from this. At Amnesty, particularly for death penalties, we do fight for their rights even if they are in prison. If people commit crimes, it does not mean that the president or any other arm of government should not pardon them,” he added.