40 Years Down The Line 3 Judges And 2 Military Officers Were Killed
Ghana history marks that 40 years down the line three High Court Judges- Justice Kwadwo Ayei Agyepong, Frederick Opoku Sarkodie, Mrs. Cecelia Koranteng-Addow a nursing mother, and the two retired Military Officers were killed on the 30th of June 1982.
The 40th Martyrs day was commemorated concerning the wrongful killing and observed with a solemn church service at the Christ the King Catholic Church in Accra.
As a result, June 30, every year has been declared Martyrs Day by the Ghana Bar Association (GBA) and the Judicial Service as a series of events were put in place in memory of the judges.
The event was attended by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, a member of the GBA; Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, the Chief Justice, Kwasi Anin Yeboah, the Attorney-General, Godfred Yeboah Dame, and the President of the GBA, Yaw Acheampong Boafo.
In attendance, were the judges of the Superior Courts and the lower courts, lawyers, staff of the Judicial Service, and family members and loved ones of the three judges, including the late Justice Agyepong’s widow, as well as his son, Kwabena Agyepong, a former Presidential Spokesperson.
Mr. Boafo, who read the history of the murder of the judges, said on July 1, 1982, it was announced that the three judges and the retired military officer had been killed.
“The nation’s worst fears became a reality when it was announced that the three judges and the retired military officer had been brutally and savagely murdered on the night of their abduction,” he said.
Mr. Boafo said widespread condemnation by the citizenry overpower the military junta at the time, the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC), to set up a special investigations board over the killings.
He said the findings led to the prosecution of a member of the PNDC, Mr. Joachim Amartey Kwei, two military men, Lance Corporal Samuel Amedeka and Lance Corporal Michael Senya, as well as two retired soldiers, Johnny Dzandu and Tonny Tekpor.
He said in response to calls for reconciliation by the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) and the Biblical injunction that says trespasses must be forgiven, the Judiciary and the Bar had forgiven the wrongdoers.
“Justices Poku Sarkodee, Koranteng-Addow and Agyei Agyepong, the Bar, the Bench, and the people salute you. You died in the line of duty,” he said.
You performed your duties as judges without fear or favor. You stood for the rule of law,” Mr. Boafo added.
The GBA President said the unfortunate incident must constantly remind the people not to entertain acts or utterances that tended to threaten the democracy of the country.
“We must all appreciate that an imperfect constitutional democracy that allows citizens to either change governments or extend their mandate is a far better option than any form of military adventurism, where our lives and opportunities will be at the whims and caprices of some lawless few,” he said.
Mr. Boafo urged the media not to allow their platforms to be used by some people to destroy the country’s democracy, peace, and stability.
Also, the sermon deliver said, the Parish Priest of the Christ the King Catholic Church, the Very Rev. Fr Andrew Campbell, urged the public to use the death of the three judges as a reminder to be more tolerant and forgiving towards one another.
He said since others hurt us, there was the need for people to have a forgiving heart and love one another, adding: “The more we love, the more we can forgive, and the happier we can become.”
Their monuments stand in the forecourt of the Supreme Court building in constant reminder of the good qualities required of a judge. Judges, magistrates, and lawyers will continue to draw inspiration from the bold and courageous manner in which these martyred Judges administered justice in those challenging times.
The four were branded as ‘enemies of the revolution’ by the then Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) which was led by Mr. Jerry John Rawlings. The judges, according to Roger Gocking’s History of Ghana, had overturned judgments handed by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)’s People’s Revolutionary Courts. It turned out that all the three judges were sitting reviewing cases brought to them by aggrieved citizens in connection with the treatment meted out to them by the AFRC junta led by Mr. Rawlings after the June 4 1979 coup.
As for Major Sam Acquah, his crime was that he had signed letters that led to the dismissal of some agitating workers, including a PNDC member Joachim Amartey Kwei. These members were dismissed after invading and destroying property at Ghana’s Parliament house.
Lance Corporal Amedeka, Tony Tekpor, and Dzandu, all soldiers, had taken their captives to the Bondase military firing range and executed them. The murderers carried along a gallon of fuel (petrol) with which they set fire to the bodies to cover up their crime.
But historical accounts have noted that it rained that night, so the bodies did not burn as the murderers wanted.
Ever since the incident, the nation has not had closure on the turn of events on this particular day. Several people have accused the late former president Jerry John Rawlings of being the mastermind behind these murders. Before these accusations, Jerry John Rawlings had come on national television to denounce what he described as “hideous crimes of terrorism”, after the bodies of the judges were discovered.
Following a public outcry, the PNDC set up the Special Investigation Board (SIB) headed by former Chief Justice Mr. Justice Azu Crabbe to unravel the mystery.
In their report, the SIB established that the abduction and murder were a plot hatched with the connivance of members of the PNDC. The SIB also found that the entire plot was master-minded by Capt. Kojo Tsikata, PNDC member in charge of National Security. However, the PNDC rejected that particular aspect of the report and let Capt. Tsikata and four others are off the hook for lack of evidence.
The remaining four of the nine suspects were jailed. When on 19 June 1983, there was a jailbreak at the Nsawam Medium Prisons and the Ussher Fort Prisons, L/Cpl Amedeka escaped from captivity and has since not been seen. But his three accomplices, Tony Tekpor, Dzandu, and Hekli, as well as ex-PNDC member Amartey Kwei, were executed by firing squad.
But the nation’s worst fears became a reality when it was announced that Mr. Justice Fred Poku Sarkodee, Mrs. Justice Cecilia Koranteng-Addow, and Mr. Justice Kwadwo Agyei Agyepong, all judges of the High Court and Major Acquah, a retired army officer, had been most brutally and savagely murdered on the night of their abduction. This cruel, savage, and heartless act occurred at the Bundase Military Range in the Accra Plains.
The bodies of these precious Ghanaians had been soaked with petrol and set on fire. Divine intervention, through a heavy downpour that night, quenched the burning bodies. When discovered, the charred bodies had deteriorated into a state of decomposition.
The nation was stunned. There was swift, widespread, and open condemnation by Ghanaians of all walks of life. Pressure mounted on the then military government for a thorough investigation and punishment of the perpetrators.
The Provisional National Defence Council, publicly declaring itself to be horrified by the crime and yielding to the strong public pressure, appointed a Special Investigation Board with a former Chief Justice of Ghana, the Late Mr. Justice Samuel Azu Crabbe, as Chairman, to investigate the murders. The courage and professional expertise of its main investigator, the late Chief Superintendent Jacob Jebuni Yidana, an officer of the Ghana Police Service will go down in the history of Ghana as the qualities that helped produce one of the best criminal investigations ever undertaken in this country. The Special Investigation Board submitted a report, which was published along with a Government White Paper.