Page last updated at 17:11 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Ghana ex-first lady case dropped

Nana Rawlings (from:
The NDC said the case against Nana Rawlings was politically motivated

All charges have been dropped against Ghana's former first lady Nana Konadu Rawlings, her lawyer has told the BBC.

She was charged in 2005 with theft, fraud and conspiracy to defraud the state during the 1990s when her husband Jerry Rawlings was president.

Her attorney said the case had been dropped on the orders of John Kufuor, who stood down as president last week.

He handed over to John Atta Mills, once Mr Rawlings' deputy, after his party's candidate lost the December elections.

Leaders of the National Democratic Congress, now in power, had dubbed this case - and another against the former chief of Ghana's National Petroleum Company - as politically motivated "witch hunts".

The case has damaged her international reputation and had no basis in the first place
Tony Lithur
Nana Rawlings' lawyer

Tsatu Tsikata, who received a five-year prison term in 2008 for causing financial loss to the state, was also pardoned by Mr Kufuor last week.

The BBC's David Amanor in the capital, Accra, says it is unclear why the cases have been dismissed.

Mr Kufuor's supporters say it is a mark of his generous spirit; his detractors say that with his New Patriotic Party out of government, the former president is attempting to head off recriminations.

'Dragged through mud'

Mr Tsikata has vowed to ignore the pardon and carry on fighting for acquittal in the courts.

Mrs Rawlings' lawyer expressed dismay at the handling of the case which will be formally discontinued by Ghana's High Court on Thursday.

"Her name has been dragged through the mud for three years," Tony Lithur told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"The case has damaged Mrs Rawlings' international reputation and had no basis in the first place," he said.

Mrs Rawlings and four others were accused of misappropriating public funds and property during the late 1990s while organising the sale of a publicly owned canning factory in Ghana's Eastern region.

The defendants had all pleaded not guilty.

Mr Rawlings first came to power in a coup in 1979, and in 1981 again seized power from his democratically elected successor.

He won democratic elections in 1992 and 1996 but stood down at the 2000 election, when his chosen successor, Mr Atta Mills, was defeated by Mr Kufuor.

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