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Political activist detained over allegations against first lady

(MFWA/IFEX) - March 19, 2012 - A ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) activist, Ernest Owusu Bempah, a fiery critic of President Atta Mills' administration, was on March 14, 2102 detained on charges of “publishing false information with the intent to cause fear and alarm” in Accra. On March 16, two days after his arrest, he was granted police inquiry bail.

Bempah, the Operations Director of the Friends of Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings (FONKAR), was kept at the regional headquarters of the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) in Accra after he was invited by the BNI on March 14.

Bempah had made allegations on Accra-based Oman FM radio station that the President's wife, Mrs. Naadu Mills, had received a gift of 5 million Ghana Cedis (approximately US$2,941,176) from a businessman who is facing trial for allegedly defrauding the state of tens of millions of dollars.

Both the government and the first lady have denied the allegations. Lawyers of Naadu Mills have expressed their intention to institute a civil legal action against Bempah.

FONKAR is a group within the ruling NDC that was formed last year to support the presidential ambition of Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, wife of ex-President Rawlings. Mrs. Rawlings was defeated by President Mills during the NDC congress last year. Before and since the congress there has been considerable acrimony between FONKAR and the mainstream NDC led by President Mills.

In recent times, there has been a spate of political reckless statements and unsubstantiated allegations against political opponents in the Ghana media, especially on radio. These statements have been a source of concern for many people in the country.

While the MFWA protests against the criminalization of speech by forces in Ghana, the organization is concerned that the widespread broadcasting of reckless and unsubstantiated allegations has a tendency to undermine freedom of expression. This attitude strengthens the hands of forces that oppose the rights to free expression.

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