It was an atmosphere of mixed feelings within the four walls of a High Court in Accra yesterday, when six persons were sentenced to death by hanging over a failed plot to overthrow the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government through a violent coup.
Even the three judges who made the decision were clearly not in a good mood, and one of them did not hesitate to make that known after handing the sentence on the six made up of three military officers, two civilians and a civilian working with the Ghana Armed Forces (GAF).
This is the first time in Ghana’s Fourth Republic that a person or persons have been arraigned, convicted and sentenced for attempting a coup.
Kafui Donya aka Ezor and Bright Alan Debrah, both civilians, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit high treason and the substantive charge of high treason, while Johannes Zikpi, a civilian with the GAF, Lance Corporal Ali Solomon, Lance Corporal Sylvester Akapewu, and WOII Esther Saan Dekuwine, all soldiers, were found guilty of conspiring to commit high treason.
Three other persons, ACP Dr. Benjamin Agordzo, a senior police officer; Col. Samuel Gameli, a senior military officer and Lance Corporal Seidu Abubakar, another soldier, were acquitted and discharged of abetment of high treason, conspiracy to commit treason and treason.
In their case, the court presided over by Justices Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe, Stephen Oppong and Hafisata Amaleboba, all Justices of the Court of Appeal sitting as additional High Court judges, said the Office of the Attorney General could not prove the allegations made against them beyond reasonable doubt.
The nine were hauled before the court on April 24, 2021 over plans to usurp the executive powers of Ghana through a coup, and discussions were held as to whether or not to kill President Akufo-Addo when he is captured.
The convicts are said to be members of a non-governmental organisation, Take Action Ghana (TAG), formed by the late Dr. Frederick Mac-Palm, who was also standing trial until he died in March last year.
On June 8, 2021, the prosecution under the guidance of the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, began leading evidence and in the course of the trial called 13 witnesses, some of whom tendered guns, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a blacksmith’s equipment used in the manufacturing of the weapons and other ammunition confiscated from some of the accused persons during their arrest.
Some of the prosecution witnesses included undercover operatives who were able to infiltrate a WhatsApp group of TAG created by the accused persons where they had planned the coup, as well as meetings attended by some of the accused persons where the coup plot was discussed.
The court also heard audio tapes of the meetings attended by some of the accused persons and WOII Esther Saan, the only female among the accused persons was heard on the tape saying President Nana Akufo-Addo must be eliminated when captured on the day of the coup.
On July 25, 2023, accused persons were ordered by the court to open their defence after finding that the prosecution had made a case against them.
They all opened their defence and denied the charges levelled against them, and questioned the authenticity of the videos and audios tendered by the prosecution in proving its case.
The court, in its judgement yesterday, took time to examine the role played by each of the persons accused of playing a part in the plot to overthrow government vis-à-vis the evidence produced by the prosecution through their witnesses.
In the case of Donya Kafui, the court found that he actively participated in the plot and was integral in it such that he produced the guns, ammunition and IEDs that were supposed to be used in carrying out the violent coup.
He even implicated himself by stating in a confession statement that the late Dr. Mac-Palm had contracted him to manufacture the weapons which were to be used for a coup at the Jubilee House.
The court rejected his defence that the IEDs were mere pipes filled with gun powder and were intended as funeral musketry.
The court described the defence as an afterthought as neither he nor Dr. Mac-Palm were bereaved or indicating having a funeral within that period.
In the case of Bright Alan Debrah, the court found that he was responsible for recruiting the soldiers for the coup, the pivot and liaison between the soldiers and Dr. Mac-Palm and organised a series of meetings where discussions were held about how to undertake the coup.
He was also responsible for drawing a sketch and detailing key roads to be blocked, security installations to be attacked, and was heard enquiring about the manner in which the IEDs would be detonated.
The court subsequently found the two guilty on the two counts of conspiracy to commit high treason and high treason.
Johannes Zikpi was found guilty of conspiracy to commit high treason because he admitted in his statement that he told Dr. Mac-Palm that the equipment which were to be used to jam all communication equipment except the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation during the coup, could only be procured from abroad and also took steps to acquire Gota phones for the deceased doctor.
Lance Corporal Ali Solomon, Lance Corporal Sylvester Akapewu, and WOII Esther Saan Dekuwine were all found guilty of conspiring to commit high treason because they all attended the meetings organised by Bright Alan Debrah and contributed in discussions, knowing the object of the meeting was to stage a coup.
“This court having found you guilty of conspiracy to commit crime, namely high treason and high treason as your respective cases may be, and as contained in the judgement we just delivered, the sentence of the court upon you is that you be taken from hence to a prison designated by the Republic, and that you be there hanged by the neck until you are dead and that your body be afterwards be buried in such a place as the President may order. May God have mercy on your souls,” Justice Afia Serwah read as she handed the death sentence.