I was tortured till I forgot my name - Hammah
Mr John Alex Hammah, an Industrial and Public Relations Consultant, on Tuesday told the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) that he was unlawfully detained for one-and-a-half years during the National Redemption Council (NRC) regime and tortured till he forgot his own name.
He said his unlawful detention was because of a false accusation of financing a coup plot against the NRC led by the late General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.
Mr Hammah said in 1973, he returned to Ghana from Nigeria where he lived and worked as a writer and publisher to sell a book he had written -Farewell Africa - and to invest in other business.
He said the book sold like hot cake and as a result he raised money, some of which he decided to invest in the cattle rearing business. He said that was then the most lucrative business and was mainly in the hands of soldiers.
Mr Hammah said he was fortunate to get in touch with a Colonel who connected him to a General who offered to get him the cattle. He said he paid 56,000 cedis, which at the time could buy 12 two-bedroom flats.
"In the course of time a meeting was arranged between me and the General who was a military officer at the Korle Gorno Beach in Accra, during which about 40 military men pounced on us, beat up the General and collected an amount 3,000 cedis on me and arrested me," he said.
He said the soldiers took him in a military vehicle to the guard room at the military barracks where he was subjected to various forms of torture, including slaps, kicks in the stomach for several hours before being told the reason for his arrest.
Apparently, the money he gave to the General for the cattle to be bought for him had been suspected as money given to stage a coup against the Acheampong government. He said he denied any knowledge of a coup, but his denial was not taken.
The FORMER trade unionist appealed to the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) to ask the state to refund his amount of ?56,000 which was confiscated in 1973 by the National Redemption Council.
He called for a realistic compensation because at the time of the confiscation, that amount could have bought 10 houses and a number of cars.
He has also appealed to the commission to ask the government to direct the National Security Council to erase any records on its files that he is a dangerous person.
He said during the period in jail, he was often interrogated by the soldiers.
Counsel for the commission: How were you interrogated?
Hammah: Some of the people sat in front and others behind me. They will then ask questions. Those behind me will slap me. I was later taken to a sound proof room where I was also beaten.
C: Can you describe the beating?
H: Kicking me in the stomach. Pushing me onto the floor and slapping me.
C: What periods did these interrogations take place?
H: Questioning was in the afternoon while the beating took place in the night. Sometimes, the questioning can take place from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Mr Hammah said after the horrifying ordeal, he was charged for subversion before a Military Tribunal chaired by Mr Justice George Francois. He said he was sentenced to death on his 37th birthday and was taken to the Nsawam Prisons where he was put in the condemned cells for four months.
He said after complaining about the deplorable conditions of the cells, he was moved to another cell where he joined criminal inmates.
He said after one and half years at the Nsawam Prisons, he was transferred to the Kumasi Prisons.
Mr Hammah said he was granted ?free, absolute and unconditional pardon by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC)?.
He said after his release, he returned to Nigeria to join his Nigerian wife but was harassed at the airport because the Nigerian authorities claimed they had received a message that he (Mr Hammah) was a dangerous person and should, therefore, not be entertained at any airport.
He said he petitioned the then Nigerian Head of State, Gen Ibrahim Babaginda and copied to the Ghana?s High Commissioner about the treatment after which the harassment stopped.
Mr Hammah said in 1982, he was picked up around 3:30am on charges that he was plotting with eight officers to topple the PNDC Government.
?Mr chairman, why is it that I am always being arrested for plotting to overthrow a government?? he asked amidst laughter from the audience.
He told the commission that he was detained for just two weeks by the PNDC after which he was released.
Mr Hammah said since the security agencies could not find any evidence against him, it is proper that any such evidence against him be removed from the records of the National Security Council.
On his part, Mr Emmanuel Kwaku Badasu, a former scrap dealer, appealed to the commission to help reconcile him with his family.
He said he was wrongfully charged for conspiracy to commit subversion and subversion and left in jail from 1972 to 1982 when he was released.
He told the commission amidst tears that, on his release, he had lost his parents and the family and the entire village have held him responsible for the death of his parents.
According to Mr Badasu, most people do not even want to get close to him. Giving a background to his ordeal, he said, he did not heed the advice of his brothers not to work with a friend of his, John Owusu, now deceased.
He said as a scrap dealer, he had a registered company with which he transacted all his businesses.
He said the late Owusu had expressed his desire to join him in the business but unknown to him, Owusu had had two previous convictions.
Mr Badasu said Owusu requested him to accompany him one evening when they met at Tema to cart his personal belongings. He said Owusu went to hire a car for the purpose and on their way, Owusu asked the driver to stop.
He said the since the spot where they stopped was far off from the estates, he asked Owusu why they stopped there.
Mr Badasu said as soon as they alighted, they heard gun shots and he subsequently took to his heels.
He said he was shot at several times but he fell into a drain following which he was arrested and taken alongside the others to the barracks.
He said after several ordeals in the hands of the soldiers and the police, they were arraigned before a magistrate court in Tema where they were later granted bail.
Mr Badasu said on the next adjourned date, some soldiers arrested them and took them away to a guardroom.
He said on January 11, 1973, he and Owusu were arraigned before a Military Tribunal chaired by Gen Emmanuel Utuka. He said the driver and his mate appeared before the tribunal as prosecution witnesses but said when he challenged the evidence given at the tribunal, the charge of conspiracy to commit subversion was dropped.
Tried as he did to extricate himself from the tribunal, Mr Badasu said he was told that so far as Owusu was working for him, he was liable and was subsequently sentenced to death on February 1, 1973 at the age of 25. Mr Badasu said he later petitioned the then Head of State, Col I. K. Acheampong against his conviction.
He said he had a vision that he would be released and on May 23, 1973, he was released but no warrant came and he was subsequently kept for a long time until September 23, 1979 when then then chairman of the AFRC, Flt Lt Rawlings visited them.
He said he could not narrate his ordeal to him but unfortunately the former chairman did not have time to spare as they were preparing to hand over to the Limann Administration the next day.
Mr Badasu said since all the officers who were on duty said they did not have the warrant to release him, he stayed in jail till the December 31 1981 coup. He said with the assistance of Mr Peter Ala Adjetey, a petition was sent to the former chairman of the PNDC to look into his case.
He said he was released on June 4, 1982 and has since never had peace with his family and townsfolks. Mr Badasu pleaded with the commission to help him stage a musical concert with the Police Band so that he could also get some funds to keep him going.
On his part, Mr Salifu Bawku, urged the commission to let the state take care of his medical bills and also compensate him as he had his leg amputated in the discharge of his duty.
He said he was at the Flagstaff House when a grenade was thrown at a gathering after President Dr Kwame Nkrumah had received a delegation of chiefs after the Kulungugu bombing incident.
Mr Salifu said an amount of ?900 giving him for medical treatment was never cashed and that after the Nkrumah regime was toppled, he was made to refund all the expenses incurred by the state for the treatment of his leg.
He said his former employers, secured him a new artificial leg for him when he was about to go on retirement but the device is also going bad. On his part, Mr Peter Ntow, who lives at Accra New Town told the commission that he tortured by soldiers and his goods seized.
According to him in March 1982, he was selling school uniforms and materials at the Malam Atta market when a lady brought two gentlemen to his stall to purchase some materials. Mr Ntow said at about 12 o?clock that same day the lady and the two gentlemen return with some soldiers who arrested him.
According to him he was sent to the Flagstaff House where his materials were sold after which he was released. He was arrested again and this time he was severely beaten and his goods seized.
Mr Ntow said he couldn't hear properly following the beatings he sustained and since then he has been deaf in one of his ears.
Another witness, Mr Joseph Kwaku Amankwa told the commission that he was severely assaulted by soldiers in Sekondi during the 1972 coup d' teat.
He said he was working at the Centre for Civic Education when the Progress party government was overthrown and he was asked to take inventory and hand over the keys to the District Administrative officer.
He said he did as he was told and when he was sending the keys to the district officer he met him with Col George Bernasko who ordered the soldiers to teach him a lesson. In all five witnesses appeared before the commission today sittings continue tomorrow.