Concerns Australian-Samoan man may not get a fair trial in alleged PM assassination plot

Amnesty International has raised concerns a man who's facing extradition from Australia to Samoa may not get a fair trial if he is sent overseas.

Samoan-Australian Talalelei Pauga is wanted by Samoan authorities over an alleged plot to assassinate the country's long-serving Prime Minister.

Pauga was arrested in Brisbane in August after the Samoan Government asked the Federal Attorney-General to extradite him to face a charge of conspiracy to murder.

Amnesty International's Pacific researcher Kate Scheutze said it is a worrying situation.

“The concern here with the extradition charges is that we don't know what evidence they have to allege this person has been involved in any crime in Samoa and yet he's been detained and held in custody,” she said.

Pauga has been in custody for six weeks and last week a Brisbane magistrate rejected his application to be released while he fights the extradition attempt.

The 43-year-old has been a vocal critic of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele.

Back in 2018, he made headlines when he hurled abuse and a pig's head at the Prime Minister during a visit to a church in Queensland.

Scheutze said that it appears the pursuit of Pauga may be politically motivated, something Australian authorities need to consider.

“We've seen the UN special rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers communicate with the Samoan Government this year around some of their concerns about the lack of separation of power.”

Pauga is one of four men Samoan authorities allege were involved in a plot to assassinate the Prime Minister last year, though few details have been released.

In Samoa, three men have been charged with conspiracy to murder, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Lawyer Unasa Iuni Sapolu is representing one of them.

“It was not until recently about a month ago that suddenly out of the blue we received a bundle of documentation.”

Earlier this year, Samoan media printed a letter the Prime Minister wrote to the head of the Ministry of Justice criticising its decision to release two of the accused on bail.

Sapolu said it highlights what she believes is the political interference in the case.

She too fears the men may not get a fair trial.

“You have the most powerful man in Samoa being the complainant,” she said.

Pacific Beat has sought comment from the Prime Minister's office and Samoa's Attorney General.


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