Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, the Minority Leader, has asked the judge overseeing his criminal trial to drop off the case due to allegations of bias.
The former Deputy Finance Minister, who is on trial for counts of causing the state financial loss, noted that the Judge, Justice Afia Serwaa Asare-Botwe’s comments, were biased when she granted his request to call several witnesses.
On June 21, 2023, his attorneys filed a request with the court to compel the attendance of three people who have been having trouble appearing in court to testify—former Health Minister Alex Segebfia, former Budget Director at the Ministry of Health Patrick Nimo, and former Controller and Accountant General Seidu Kotomah—even though some of them have already submitted witness statements to do so.
On the day the application was filed, his attorney Aziz Bamba expressed regret that their second witness, Seidu Kotomah, was unable to attend in court despite efforts to do so being unsuccessful.
Before granting the request, the judge warned the attorneys that compelling witnesses had potential repercussions, including the possibility of an arrest warrant being issued if the witness does not comply with the summons.
Nonetheless, the motion for the summons was made by his attorneys and later approved.
However, according to Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson in the application for the judge’s recusal, the remarks were “highly prejudicial, presented in the form of a caution that was premature and lacked any factual basis.”
He contends that a witness’s failure to appear at a witness summons does not require their arrest without further investigation and that instead, the court should determine if the absence was “willful and without any reasonable excuse.”
He claimed that the witnesses have become “unsettled and irritated” as a result of Justice Afia Serwaa Asare-Botwe’s focus on the possibility of an arrest warrant if the witnesses fail to appear in court.
The witnesses, according to him, believe they have been painted as “common criminals and unpatriotic citizens who will willfully disobey a witness summons issued by the court.”
The Minority Leader included that the trial judge’s decision to change the timeline for the case and call two of his witnesses to testify on the same day, violated his right to a fair trial under Article 19 by denying him the necessary time and space for the preparation of his defense.
Trial Judge Appears Hostile
Dr. Ato Forson wrote in the application that the trail judge appears “hostile to my case and is rushing to judgment such that it has become clear to me that I would not be given adequate time and facilities to prepare my defense.”
He thereby begs the judge to halt proceedings and withdraw from further consideration of the case.
The motion was postponed after the court learned that the Minority Leader’s attorneys had also asked the Chief Justice to appoint a new judge to hear the matter. The trial judge has therefore postponed the case to July 27 in the hopes that the Chief Justice’s ruling will be known by then, allowing for the determination of the appropriate course of action.