OPINION: The Montie three have finally been granted the freedom to walk out of prison following President John Mahama’s decision to remit the four-month sentence handed to them.
The contempt proceedings came after the three allegedly made threats against the lives of Supreme Court judges who sat on the Abu Ramadan and Gary Nimako versus the Electoral Commission case.
A petition book was subsequently opened by pro-government group Research and Advocacy Platform (RAP) to collect signatures of Ghanaians to implore the President to exercise his prerogative of mercy powers to free the three contemnors.
After spending 27 days in jail, the three can now heave a sigh of relief as the president has given them remission.
The President's action based on the advice of the Council of State has attracted various comments from different people within the socio - political stratum of this country.
Most analysts have looked at the issue from its moral, legal and ethical perspectives, drawing its implications for constitutionalism and democracy.
There is no denying the fact that the issue was not exhausted enough within the processes of law to warrant anybody pleading with the President to use his constitutional and executive powers to get the three persons convicted by the supreme court to be released. I tend to agree with other analysts who argue that the three Montie offenders had every right to appeal the judgment up to the point of review.
So the question is: Why the need for the petition to have them released in the first place? The constitution enjoins the President to be fair and unbiased in the exercise of his discretionary use of those powers conferred on him by the constitution. But the very fact that the Montie three made those utterances with the intent of favouring the ruling NDC makes the leniency of the President biased.
Of course, the Montie three spoke for a dominant party and when the consequences came; they were redeemed even though they were proven guilty.
Will the Council of State have advised the President to release the three if they had come from or were sympathetic to some other political party? I wonder.
Implications for Democracy
Morally it sounds right for the President to show mercy but at what cost to constitutionalism and eventually democracy?
It is said “prison is not a pleasant place to live in”, so the clemency exhibited by the president could be justifiable.
But I firmly believe that the action to remit the sentence of the Montie three is an unflattering precedence set to get society agitating for clemency for similar offenders in future.
There are approximately 2,000 prisoners in Nsawam Prison who have been on remand for years concerning offences in which they may not even have been involved. The president might as well release all those prisoners in an attempt to prove his moral right to show mercy.
Now with the president’s latest action, I fear that we might be forced to have our executive and judicial arms at war around this crucial election time when they are supposed to function as one body.
Already, many have argued that the president’s decision to free the Montie three has undermined the authority of the judiciary.
And definitely, threatening to kill an individual or rape him or her, as the Montie three did to the judges should never be taken lightly, as it has supposedly been done.
I believe that due to this remittance, many might jump the gun and churn out disrespectful language under the pretext of free speech.
Looking at how things have unfolded, does it mean Ghana’s democracy will now automatically allow for freedom of expression at the expense of other's rights to life? We need to watch this space!