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Opinions Tue, 1 Oct 2019

A police cell in Teshie

I spent the night of 29 September in a police cell at Teshie; I am now on self recognizance bail and have been ordered to report back on 1 October at 12 noon.

What led me there was a personal choice; I have not broken any law.

For 20 odd years I have always questioned the police for flashing lights into my eyes and the eyes of other commuters during night traffic duties.

And I will continue to do so regardless of whatever they say.

And so it happened that on the Teshie Bush Road in Accra last night, I was with my two teenage sons when our hired taxi was stopped by ARMED TRAFFIC POLICE at about 8:30PM.

“Why are you flashing your torch directly into my face?” I asked.

“Why are you challenging authority….. You are obstructing our work,” and the rest of the usual brash, pompous and ill informed rants that almost all public officials in our part of the world utter ad nauseum. It is in their DNA.

So the search began and I asked my children to start recording. Our nkontomire sauce, okro sauce, bread and clothes were left on the ground after the search.

At a point the police also started recording.

“The war on drugs is fought with intelligence,” I stated emphatically; it is a favourite quote from my mentor.

After about 15 minutes of radio calls (supposedly to higher authority) they made us drive with them to the Teshie police station where I was dragged from the car onto the floor, placed at “counterback” and my children questioned several times.

Anytime I shouted “Don’t say anything to anybody,” the police became more infuriated.

I was put in the cell without anything being said to me. “The police can effect an arrest without a warrant,” the CID man announced to me inside the cell.

As midnight approached, my teenage boys were still standing quietly and exhausted, but morally inspired by occasional winks from me from behind the cell gate.

The frantic CID man, hearing I was a journalist started waxing biblical to the inmates while cajoling me into writing a caution statement.

More and more inmates blamed me for not acquiescing to get my freedom. My explanation as to the importance of principle fell on deaf ears – after all this is ghana, not Ghana.

Finally, the CID officer just came and ordered me out to go and write a statement.

I followed him into an office with a so called independent witness behind us. There I saw my children sleeping on some tables with mosquitoes biting them just as in the cell. I was forbidden from waking them up.

It was just past 3am and cocks had started crowing.

Whilst the CID man would tell me I was free to write, he would at the same time complain about what I was writing.

He called my written statement “smart” and played a police video of the checkpoint incident where I was refusing to get down.

He then informed me he had taken statements from my two sons and the taxi driver, all of whom had said we never got down from the car, which was part of his preliminary charges.

My statement ended, “I do not blame the police; it is the system they are running. My shock however is that the taxi driver whom I had paid 25 Cedis out of an agreed 30 Cedis for the planned trip and disembarked said that we never got down. I will make further comments when I and my sons have access to a counsel.”

This did not make the CID man happy at all. “I am an investigator. I can ask you further questions until I am satisfied.

Even if your lawyer is present the law says he is only a witness. People who are stubborn like you we handle them like that aaaaaaaa.”

It was almost 5AM when I was released on self recognizance bail and sureties of 5000 Cedis.

We gave our bag of sachet water to the inmates.

When we wanted to urinate for the last time before leaving, the CID man and his witness told us to simply urinate in between the cars, “just here.” We did; on a prior occasion we had been directed to do so just in front of the door.

I will honour my date with the police on October 1. Stay tuned.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah