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Former Ghanaian President Denies Murder Allegations - 2004-02-12


Former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings has denied allegations he was involved in the abduction and murders of three high court judges and a retired army officer while he was in office.

This is the first time Mr. Rawlings has appeared before Ghana's reconciliation commission to testify about the murder of three judges and an army officer back in 1982. He was specifically called before the commission to testify about the existence of taped confessions made by the convicted murderers.

Of the five men who were convicted of the murders, four were executed and one escaped into exile.

Two of those convicted of the murders testified that they were told to carry out the killings by government officials, including Mr. Rawlings. Others alleged Mr. Rawlings himself celebrated with champagne when he heard of the murders.

Mr. Rawlings, who ruled Ghana from 1981 until 2000, has denied any role in the murders. He told a crowd that gathered in front of the commission building he is a victim of a smear campaign.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I will all the same thank them [the commission] for the effort they've made and especially to a few of them among the commission members who have demonstrated immense patience to listen to some of the prejudicial statements and some of the atrocious lies that have been told," he said.

The executive secretary of the commission, Ken Attafuah, said Mr. Rawlings had known about the allegations long ago.

"We brought them to the attention of the former president and gave him an opportunity to respond," he said. "He has not to date done so in accordance with our procedure and has not come to testify about those specific allegations."

He says Mr. Rawlings may be called again to testify before the commission closes its investigation on July 13.

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