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Ghana charges Gbagbo's aide with murder

02 October 2012, 08:46

Accra - Ghanaian authorities on Monday charged the spokesperson for Ivory Coast's ex-leader Laurent Gbagbo with murder following a warrant from his home country, days after he was granted bail while awaiting an extradition hearing.

Justin Kone Katinan's lawyer Patrick Sogbodjor said that while the alleged murder was committed in Ivory Coast, prosecutors charged him in Accra as a procedural move to keep him in custody after his earlier release on bail.

Authorities declined to further explain the seemingly unorthodox move, referring questions to a police spokesperson who did not respond to phone calls.

Katinan was granted bail at an extradition hearing on 25 September as he is wanted in the Ivory Coast on charges for economic crimes. But then he was re-arrested on Friday on the murder charges, which stemmed from a fresh warrant issued by Ivorian authorities the same day he was granted bail.

On Monday, he was charged with three counts of conspiracy and the murder of two men in Abidjan in March last year.

Desire Dallo, a former minister in Ivory Coast currently being detained in his home country, was also said to be facing the same charges.

"They are charged with murder under Ghanaian law," Sogbodjor told AFP. "It was purely procedural when it comes to extradition... We cannot read foreign [Ivorian] charges in a Ghanaian court...

"In order for a court to remand you, you must have been charged with an offence in Ghana," he explained. "That then gives [Ghana] the basis to hold you on remand."

Ghanaian law states that a suspect must be released if not charged within 48 hours of arrest, he added.

Fresh charges

Katinan is already facing an extradition hearing over charges in his home country for alleged economic crimes while he was budget minister during a violent crisis that followed Gbagbo's refusal to cede power in November 2010.

Police prosecutor, deputy superintendent Abraham Aanor, told the court that the two accused had on 25 March last year murdered Kamagate Sedou, 83, a welder, and on 29 March, Diabate Drissa, 37, a trader in Port Bouet district of Abidjan.

On the fresh charges, Aanor told AFP that "on September 25 2012, the Ivorian authorities issued a new arrest warrant in respect of the accused and informed the Ghanaian authorities that the accused [Katinan] has been seen in Ghana and therefore requested for their assistance to arrest him."

He told the court that Ghanian authorities needed more time to probe the case and requested that Katinan be held without bail.

The presiding judge, Alibaba Abature, adjourned further hearing in the murder case till October 16.

Despite Katinan's lawyer's objection, the judge ordered him remanded in police custody till the date of the next hearing.

A fresh court date for the extradition case has been set for 11 October. Katinan's lawyers have argued that he cannot be extradited because he holds refugee status in Ghana.

Ivory Coast's five-month post-election conflict claimed some 3 000 lives and Gbagbo himself is currently detained in The Hague, where he faces trial by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Katinan and thousands of other Gbagbo loyalists fled to Ghana after the fall of his regime in April 2011.



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