Ghanaian judges suspended amid bribery scandal file challenge

ACCRA (Reuters) - Fourteen junior judges in Ghana have appealed to the Supreme Court against their suspension pending an investigation into alleged acts of bribery captured on video by an investigative journalist, their lawyer said.

Ghana's judicial council on Wednesday suspended 22 junior judges who appeared in the video by an investigative newspaper journalist, in the biggest corruption scandal to hit the West African nation's judicial system in decades.

The journalist released the video to authorities last week and petitioned President John Mahama and Chief Justice Georgina Wood to remove from office the judges and other court workers who collaborated with them.

On Friday, the indicted judges filed a court challenge saying their suspension was "contrary to law and due process" because transcripts of the video that were submitted by the journalist were not made available to them.

They also argued that a panel constituted by the chief justice to investigate and take disciplinary action against them had no legal basis, according to court papers seen by Reuters.

The council is also investigating the conduct of some 12 high court judges to determine whether there is a case for their impeachment.

The expose has unsettled a country which prides itself on the efficacy and impartiality of its judiciary.

In 2013, Ghana's courts dismissed an election challenge by the opposition, which had sought to annul the re-election of President John Mahama the previous year, thus avoiding the kind of political conflicts that have ravaged other West African countries.

"The revelations are disturbing, especially when you consider the number of judicial officers involved," Emile Short, a retired senior judge and former head of Ghana's anti-graft CHRAJ agency, told Reuters.