The trial of Joseph Odok, a lawyer charged with terrorism and cybercrime by the Cross River State Government, could not commence on Tuesday as scheduled due to fresh issues raised by the prosecuting counsel, Dennis Tarhemba.
When the matter was called for hearing by the clerk of the court, Tarhemba, who is a Deputy Superintendent of Police, announced that the business of the day was for trial, adding that one prosecution witness was in court.
However, the prosecuting counsel went on to produce documents he claimed were “certified true copies” of alleged false publications made by the defendant on January 25, 2019, thereby violating his bail condition.
Tarhemba, who said the documents showed publications against a witness whose name he gave as Orim and Vice Chancellor of University of Calabar, submitted that, “We wish to seek the leave of this court to make an oral application on the issue of contempt by the defendant.”
He referred the court to Section 34 of the Terrorism (prevention amendment) Act 2013 to support his submission.
But counsel to the defendant, Oliver Osang, who appeared alongside Ankot Cobham, sought the court’s suggestion on what to do as the submissions of the prosecution counsel were confusing.
Osang said, “He (Tarhemba) started with contempt but landed as if he were a witness testifying in court even though he did it outside the witness box.”
Osang said he was confused as to whether to join issues or to cross examine Tarhemba as a witness.
In his ruling, Justice Simon Amobeda held that, “The issue raised by the prosecuting counsel cannot be canvassed orally as this court is a court of record.”
He then adjourned the matter until February 7, 2020 for the prosecution to file its processes in accordance with the regulations of the court and for hearing.
Odok, a known critic of Governor Ben Ayade’s administration in Cross River State, was arrested on September 26, 2019 in Abuja before being taken to Calabar and detained in by the police until October 22 when he was arraigned.
He risks a death sentence if convicted for terrorism and up to three years in jail if convicted for cybercrime.
Justice Amobeda had last week admitted him to bail after 117 days in police and prison custody.
His wife, Cecilia, had told earlier Premium Times that her husband’s ordeal was orchestrated by the Cross River State Government – an allegation aides of Governor Ayade had continued to deny.