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General News Fri, 29 Jan 1999

Chronicle Editor sued for libel at a Kumasi High Court.

Kumasi (Greater Accra), 29 Jan. '99 - A Kumasi High Court has adjourned proceedings in a libel suit filed by Nana Akwasi Agyemang, Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive against Mr Ebo Quansah, Editor, and Mr Dominic Jale, Reporter, both of the 'Ghanaian Chronicle', for 500 million cedis damages, to Thursday, February 18. The court, presided over by Mr Justice A. K. Abada, was adjourned to enable it to give its ruling on whether the Court has the jurisdiction to hear the case, or it should be transferred to a High Court in Accra. This follows an application by Mr Akoto Ampaw, Counsel for the defendants, that the Court is not properly constituted to hear the libel suit because both defendants reside in Accra where they also carry out their business. Mr Akoto Ampaw said Mr Jale was formerly residing in Kumasi but there was a threat on his life by the plaintiff, so the management of the newspaper transferred him to Accra in July last year. Defence Counsel contended that General Portfolio, publishers of the newspaper, were not parties to the suit, while the defendants were sued in their individual capacities. Quoting authorities to support his application, Mr Akoto Ampaw said it is only in some specific cases that the court has to exercise its discretion and determine what in its view is the most convenient place for the hearing of cases. "It is only in cases where more defendants are resident in different regions that the court can exercise its discretion", he added. Mr Francis K. Mensah, Counsel for the plaintiff opposed to the transfer of the case to an Accra High Court because the publishers of the newspaper have an office at Asafo, Kumasi. He said the second defendant, Mr Jale, was residing in Kumasi until he was transferred to Accra in July last year and denied that his client threatened his (Jale's) life, adding that, "my client does not know the second defendant nor has he met him (defendant) before". Mr Mensah contended that the subject matter before the Court is based in Kumasi, notably the Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA) and the assembly's workshop, and the court may have to move to the site for observation in the course of the case. Counsel said the plaintiff has the legal right to commence the action in Kumasi, and additionally he has the option as to where to commence the action. He submitted that the application by defense counsel must therefore not to be entertained. Nana Akwasi Agyemang, last month filed a writ at the court for 500 million cedis damages against the defendants for libel for publishing in the November 20-27, 1998 edition of the Ghanaian Chronicle that he had diverted 10 new Jumbo tyres, belonging to the KMA's earth moving grader. The publication stated that the tyres were mysteriously removed days after they had been fitted and the publication did not only seriously or severely injure his credibility and reputation as the Kumasi Metropolitan Chief Executive, but his respected position as a royal of the Golden Stool of Ashanti. The KMA boss said the publication also brought him (plaintiff) into scandal, odium, hatred, ridicule, contempt and imputed criminality to his position. The writ also seeks an order of perpetual injunction to restrain the defendants, their agents and reporters from further publishing the said publication or any similar libel of and concerning the plaintiff which is false. In his statement of claim, Nana Akwasi Agyemang said the newspaper published that the plaintiff fitted four of the Jumbo tyres to a grader and ordered that the remaining six be sent to Mankranso in the Ahafo-Ano South District. It said the plaintiff is using his construction company to execute a multi-billion cedis contract in the district and used them to replace the worn out tyres on his grader. The statement said the publication stated that the plaintiff caused the removal of all the new tyres on the KMA's grader and conveyed them in a blue double-decker pick-up, an official vehicle of the KMA's budget officer, to a second grader belonging to the plaintiff working on a contract at Bomfa near Konongo. Nana Akwasi Agyeman denies all these allegations, the statement said.

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