Monday, September 14, 2009

Tonga: Acquitted

The Tongan Court of Appeal has acquitted five People's Representatives of sedition on the grounds of insufficient evidence. Akilisi Pohiva, Isileli Pulu, ‘Uliti Uata, Lepolo Taunisila and Clive Edwards all faced multiple charges of seditious conspiracy and speaking seditious words over speeches given in the leadup to the 2006 riots. In the three years since, charges have been added and dropped, while a trial has been repeatedly delayed. But the Court of Appeal found that the government had failed to make even a prima facie case that violence was planned or intended, and struck out all charges against four of the accused. Charges of seditious conspiracy against Edwards were also dismissed, leaving him facing only a single charge of "speaking seditious words". That charge will now finally be able to go to a jury - though the odds there are good. Every sedition case over the riots which has come to trial has so far resulted in acquittal - it seems the people of Tonga know political persecution when they see it.

The full judgement is here [PDF].