The 21 persons who were arrested and charged with ‘unlawful assembly’ in Ho for being part of an LGBT community empowerment seminar, have been granted bail after 3 weeks in detention.
The 21 LGBT rights activists consisting of 16 females and 5 males, were granted a GH₵5000 bail with one surety each to be justified.
This comes after 4 failed bail appeals and widespread support for them on social media on the hashtag #ReleaseThe21.
Speaking concerning the bail, Senior State Attorney in Ho, Moses Asampoah said their long detention was not an infringement on their human rights.
According to him, the extension of the detention was as their doing and not the police’s fault.
He said, “I think that the suspects largely contributed to the long detention. When they were arrested they refused to give their statements. They said they were waiting for their lawyers.
‘Where are your lawyers?’ they said their lawyers were in Accra and that they’ll be with us soon so that they’ll give the statement. So they refused to give their statements. So we also waited for their lawyers. The following day in the afternoon, that was the 21st, before the lawyers came from Accra.”
He added that, “Now the other reason why the detention delayed is that when the circuit court adjourned the matter from 21st [May] to 4th June, they were told that investigations are ongoing so they should exercise restraint because by 12th June if investigations are concluded they’ll be granted bail.
“But they rushed to high court, now the bail was refused and then they came back to the circuit court and then the circuit court judge said ‘no. I cannot review what my senior brother had done’. A lower court cannot review the decision of a higher court so they should go back there.”
“That is what delayed the application for bail. So if they had not rushed to the high court, I believe that the 4th June they’d have been granted bail because on that date, the police didn’t oppose the bail but the only difficulty the judge had was the fact that they were already refused bail at the high court so they should go back there,” he said.
He also opined that their long detention was not an abuse of their human right.
“I think that if you are holding somebody for investigation it is not an abuse of human right,” he said.
He explained that the suspects were well fed while in detention and were not abused in any way.
He, however, stated that they could possibly face a jail time of maximum 3 years should they be convicted by a court.
“Unlawful assembly is a misdemeanor so when they’re convicted they would not be sentenced more than three years or even a court can also fine them.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of pro-LGBT rights organisations has maintained that the arrest of the 21, “and continued detention was unjust and unsupported by the facts and an infringement on their rights under the 1992 constitution.”
They further hoped that “the charges will be dropped given the baseless grounds for their arrest. If the case proceeds to trial, we are in no doubt that the innocence of the ‘Ho 21’ will be established.”