What I saw behind bars: the story of remand prisoners who cannot meet bail conditions
Bail is big business in Ghana’s remand cells where several persons accused of petty crimes languish for years because they cannot meet the hefty conditions.
Inside the cell of the Accra regional police command, Ernesto Yeboah, leader of the Economic Fighters League spent more than 48 hours with his ‘new friends’ and found their stories a sad reflection of injustice.
“…many in their 3rd and 4th years, some having been detained for as long as 6 years” he said in a Facebook post Monday.
Mohammed Iddrisu is a football fan he said he met there. According to the remand prisoner, he had gone to watch a football game with his friends when a bag belonging to a Chinese got missing.
That was in 2017. He was arrested and put before the courts. By June 2018, the court granted him bail but he has been unable to meet the terms of the indenture. He has been there since. More than 600 days on remand.
“I am haunted by the story of Ayettey Duse, who was arrested on 20th September 2018, granted bail on 23rd December 2018 with a bail condition of 4 sureties, 2 of whom must be public servants. He remains in police custody.”
One of the bail conditions are the sureties who often have to be public servants. But the social status of some of these accused persons means, they may not know one or one who is willing to guarantee their partial release.
“…this has become a business. Public servants roam the courts offering themselves as guarantors to those who have been offered bail,” he explained.
Ernesto Yeboah said a person granted Ghs2,000 bail with 4 sureties, two of whom must be public servants would find themselves paying a much larger amount of money – Ghs12,000 in some cases – to the public servants at the court.
Apart from paying these public servants, the accused persons have the police officers to now tend with.
“There are police officers who will not allow people to leave the cells to go to court to complete their bail paperwork until they have also received a ‘payment’ of between Ghs1,000 and Ghs2,500.”
Ernesto Yeboah said two of several remand prisoners who have to face these ‘unjust’ hurdles to regain some partial freedoms.
He mentioned a suspect Ayettey Duse, who was arrested on 20th September 2018, granted bail on 23rd December 2018 with a bail condition of 4 sureties, 2 of whom must be public servants.
The EFL leader also mentioned Mohammed Iddrisu who was arrested in 2017 and granted bail more than 6 months later in June 2018. Mohammed was unable to meet the terms of the indenture, he said.
They both remains in police custody and said and added “there are so many more”.
The political activist called for a national discussion on the unjustice within the system of justice delivery.
“So what can we do about this? Public Servants, Lawyers, Journalists we need you. Let’s look at how we can identify these miscarriages of justice, and work to rectify them. Can you sign surety for someone? Can you take up their case? Can you tell their story? This must be done. Because we are not free, until we are ALL free.”