An Accra High Court sentenced former GYEEDA National Coordinator Abuga Pele and businessman Philip Assibit to six and 12 years imprisonment respectively for charges including causing financial loss to the state.
Joy News' Court and Political Correspondent, Joseph Ackah-Blay has captured the atmosphere there when the trial judge delivered her judgment.
Read the account below:
The court clerk spotting his black suit could be heard announcing the judge was ready for the day's business. All present in the courtroom rose and stood still as Justice Afia Serwa Asare-Botwe emerged from her chamber and took her seat at the head of the courtroom.
She stretched her left hand and grabbed her desktop Mic and said: "I am clearing the courts, let me know if you have an application before me".
It was obvious she meant business; what more could anyone expect from a Judge who had heard a case for as many as 48 months. During the period, the courtroom had changed. She started hearing the case at the Supreme Court Premises on the block where the circuit courts sit.
Former GYEEDA boss, Abuga Pele
The plush new Law Court complex had since been completed, the pretty Judge presided over proceedings at the Financial Court 2 room now, with the "new looking" little Ghana flag by her side.
Within 35 minutes after 9 am, she had dealt with as many as eight different cases. She told lawyers who had other business in her court to come after 12.
Between when the clerk had announced readiness of the court and the start of the hearing, the room had no empty seat for any intruder. The four rows which had a long table where lawyers sit also did not have an empty slot.
All the lawyers who were seated on the bench but one had his robes and wigs on.
Justice Asare-Botwe ordered that lawyer to move to the pews in the back. He had no choice than to head to his new sitting position. His new seat had the two gentlemen who were at the centre of the hearing. Abuga Pele in his usual spectacles had his left hand up against his chin with fingers moving to and fro, touching his cheeks at a point.
[M] Businessman Philip Assibit
He was in a smock largely white, with a blue colour running through some parts of the local outfit. Mr Pele had since 8:30 am been seated at that spot. At no point did I see him smile. He shook hands with friends and sympathizers who walked up to him before they grabbed a seat for themselves. His friend, Phillip Assibit sat close by in brown print. He smiled as and when he exchanged pleasantries with his friends.
The trial Judge had an important announcement to make. She ordered that any individual who had anything doing elsewhere other than the business in her courtroom should step outside.
Briskly, lawyers moved outside, paralegals followed suit, creating some space for people who were looking for space inside. Pressmen could be seen checking to be certain their phones were on silent. They clutched onto their diaries and held on to their pens as though it was their only companion for the day and it was.
Three court warrant officers were with us, while one was sitting close to the witness box and the two others sat among the "crowd". But those were not the only officers present. These ones inside were just a slim looking police officer and two women; one plump the other slim.
The "real officers" could be seen outside the courtroom through the transparent glasses. Muscular looking, wielding guns and some with handcuffs. They looked ready to barge in to lead the convicts to their new place of abode.
Sorry, they were not convicts at that point.
Lawyer Edudzi Tamakloe is one of the faces I spotted. He moved out of the courtroom following the judge's announcement.
The plump looking officer inside quickly locked up the courtroom. The silence was obvious, I can say with certainty that if a pin had dropped it would have defeated the silence inside.
Justice Asare-Botwe asked her clerk to call out the case many Ghanaians, including the media, were waiting to know about the conclusion.
Mr Pele and Mr Assibit took their seats in front of the witness box, which seats few metres away from the Judge.
She started reading out her decision, It was clear it will be a long one. the lawyers were simply impatient and did not hesitate to make this known when they had the chance.
She asked after reading about 20 pages
"Can I skip this part, which is about 4 pages"
The lawyers on the front row could all be heard saying:
Mr Assibit's lead Counsel Kwaku Panstil actually stood and said:
"What is important is the decision, in line with Supreme Court practice, you can skip to the decision and let lawyers pick up the decisions afterwards"
The other lawyers nodded in agreement but Lawyer Painstil was simply not done.
"My Lady, there was a day I was listening to a judgement of a court.."
The Judge quickly interfered and said:
"In the middle of a decision? Resume your sit".
I was obvious she had no the time to hear stories.
I must at this stage say, at no point did I see the "beleaguered" businessman look at the Judge for more than two minutes. This was in sharp contrast with the former Chiana-Paga Member of Parliament (MP) who had his eyes on the judge.
She continued with her decision. When she got to the part where she found the GIG CEO guilty, the businessman's reaction could not be missed.
Phillip Assibit smiled broadly. Yes, he smiled broadly and turned towards us in the back and shook his head in disapproval.
I could see from where I was seated his feet were restless in the sandals. He lifted them once a while and dropped them in the sandals. His hands rested on the armrest section of his seat. He lifted his right arm, touched his brow with his fingers and smiled once again.
Within the next 25 minutes, the news was out. They were both guilty. The lawyers were called to say something, anything, at least something that could mitigate the sentence.
Lawyer for Mr Assibit, Kwaku Painstil asked for a lenient sentence, arguing his client is a chief, father of many, first time offender and an entrepreneur who deserves not more than six months.
Legal practitioner, Abu Juan who represented Abuga Pele also pleaded with the trial judge to reduce his client's jail term. He explained the former GYEEDA boss is a first time offender, family man, a former MP who lost his seat because of the case.
But the two explanations did not convince the Judge who handed Mr Assibit a 12-year jail term and Mr Pele had 6-year jail term.
The murmuring started from the back, Phillip Assibit held his head with his right hand once more and his friend seated beside him made no effort to stand up.
"Court Rise", the clerk shouted. The Muscular officers dashed in and handcuffed the businessman. The officers did same to the former lawmaker.
Tears could now literally be heard from the back.
The two convicts were then led out of the courtroom and the many who had to sympathise with them could not help but to also cry.