By Sarah C. LaBelle
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania
HONIARA, Solomon Islands – Julian Moti, former attorney general for the Solomon Islands, was extradited to Australia on Thursday, where he was promptly arrested. The Fiji-born Moti is an Australian citizen who is facing a charge of child sex tourism for an incident in Vanuatu in 1997. Moti eluded Australian authorities in Papua New Guinea before fleeing to the Solomons, where he was made attorney general. However, last week the government changed over and the new government is not as friendly to Moti as their predecessor and has said for their entire campaign that they intended to return Moti to Australia.
Moti has maintained throughout the affair that the charges were dropped in Vanuatu and that the Australian government has been pursuing the charge for racial or political reasons. [There is some debate over the actual case status in Vanuatu regarding whether the charges are pending or lapsed. Please see theImpunity Watch report here for more.] He is not well-liked in Australia, and a recent article in The Australian described him as “better known for hubris than any show of humility.”
Moti’s supporters rallied at his house on Thursday, confronting police and immigration officers who had come to escort him to the airport, delaying Moti’s departure for an hour and a half. He was flown to Brisbane, where he was detained by Australian Federal Police, who handed him over to Queensland police.
After his arrest, Moti reiterated his belief that the charge against him is political and nature. He has accused the Australian Federal Police of coaching witnesses and claims that he has not been given adequate time to raise his defense. He is charged with engaging in sexual intercourse with a person under sixteen years of age, which has a maximum penalty of seventeen years of imprisonment.
Former Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare, who appointed Moti, has accused the Solomons government of “evading law and proper procedures” in the deportation process “merely to please Australia,” according to the Solomon Times. Sogavare said that international human rights protocols were not observed, and that it was improper for the same judge to hear the case on appeal.
For more information, please see:
The Australian – Moti arrested at Brisbane airport – 27 December 2007
The Australian – Moti faces court after eviction – 28 December 2007
The Australian – “Victim of political conspiracy” – 28 December 2007
Solomon Times – Sogavare Accuses Government on Moti Deportation – 28 December 2007
Solomon Times – Moti to Face Rape Charge – 28 December 2007
Sydney Morning Herald – Moti forced onto Brisbane flight to face charges – 28 December 2007