Samoa HRPP party members face contempt of court charges

Samoa's former prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and members of his Human Rights Protection Party say they will strongly defend themselves against contempt of court charges.

Several HRPP members or associates including Tuilaepa's deputy, Lauofo Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, and the former Speaker of parliament, Le'aupepetele Toleafoa Fa'afisi, are among those also charged.

They are alleged to have said insults against the judiciary on TV and social media following a July court of appeal ruling which declared as lawful the adhoc tent swearing-in of the new Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua tasi (FAST) party government.

The contempt proceedings were filed by the FAST party and its leader, Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, who allege that the HRPP members and supporters scandalised and undermined the Court's authority.

A TV1 presenter and broadcaster, Sioeli Alofaifo Taulealeausumai, is also facing the same charge in the amended statement of claim by the FAST party which was filed in court last week before the matter is heard this week.

In a statement the HRPP party said each and every allegation will be strongly defended.

"We will be considering several grounds of defense including fair comment, freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution of Samoa and that there is no real risk of serious prejudice to the administration of justice", the statement said.

A lawyer and former MP for the HRPP, Maiava Visekota Peteru said the contempt cases appeared to be a thinly veiled attempt to silence any opposition.

Two New Zealand judges will preside over the case via online link.