Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, the Minority Leader, has requested that the judge overseeing his criminal trial recuse herself, citing alleged bias. The former deputy Finance Minister is currently facing charges related to causing financial loss to the state. He contends that Justice Afia Serwaa Asare-Botwe displayed bias through her comments while granting his request to summon certain witnesses.
On June 21, 2023, Forson’s legal team filed an application with the court to summon former Health Minister Alex Segbefia, former Budget Director at the Ministry of Health Patrick Nimo, and former Controller and Accountant General Seidu Kotomah as witnesses. However, these individuals have faced difficulties in appearing in court to testify, despite having filed their witness statements in support of Forson.
During the motion proceedings, Aziz Bamba, the lawyer representing Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson, expressed his apologies for the absence of their second witness, Seidu Kotomah. Bamba acknowledged that efforts had been made to secure the witness’s appearance in court, but unfortunately, these attempts proved unsuccessful.
Prior to granting permission for the motion to proceed, the Judge issued a warning to Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson’s legal team regarding the potential consequences of compelling witnesses. The Judge cautioned that if a summoned witness fails to comply with the summons, an arrest warrant could be issued against them.
Despite the cautionary statement, Forson’s lawyers proceeded with the motion to summon the witnesses, and their request was ultimately approved by the Judge.
According to a document obtained by this portal, Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson’s application requesting the recusal of the judge asserts that the comments made were “extremely biased” and lacked factual basis. Forson argues that the judge’s caution, which suggested the possibility of issuing an arrest warrant for a non-compliant witness, was premature.
Forson contends that in cases where a summoned witness fails to appear, it is necessary for the court to determine whether their absence is willful and without a reasonable excuse, rather than automatically resorting to arrest without further inquiry.
Dr. Cassiel Ato Forson claims that Justice Afia Serwaa Asare-Botwe’s emphasis on the potential arrest warrant for witnesses who fail to appear has caused distress and irritation among the witnesses, especially after media reports on the judge’s comments. Forson asserts that the witnesses feel unfairly depicted as common criminals and unpatriotic individuals who would intentionally disregard a court-issued witness summons.
The Minority Leader further argues that the judge’s decision to alter the case completion plan and have two of his witnesses testify on the same day violated his right to a fair trial, as guaranteed under Article 19, which ensures sufficient time and resources for the preparation of his defense.
Dr. Ato Forson’s application states that he believes the trial judge has displayed hostility toward his case and is rushing to judgment, making it evident that he will not be granted adequate time and resources to prepare his defense. As a result, he requests the judge to stay the proceedings and recuse herself from further involvement in the case.
In the meantime, the application, originally scheduled to be presented on July 12, was not moved due to the revelation that the lawyers representing the Minority Leader had also petitioned the Chief Justice to assign a new judge to the case.
Consequently, the trial judge adjourned the case to July 27, anticipating a decision from the Chief Justice that would determine the subsequent course of action.