20 Aug 2002

Conspiracy charges in Vanuatu tossed out

6:04 pm on 20 August 2002

Seditious conspiracy charges brought against 15 officials in Vanuatu have been struck out by magistrate Kawai Kawaiu.

The 15 included the Attorney General, the Prime Minister's spokesman, several members of the Police Services Commission, and Mael Apisai, who had just been appointed police Commissioner.

They were arrested after then deputy police commissioner Holly Simon laid a complaint over the appointment of Mr Apisai.

The Prime Minister, Edward Natapei, said at the time the arrests were illegal, because the police did not have warrants.

And today, the magistrate ruled that the charges lacked the prior written consent of the public prosecutor, and quashed them.

Police say they are talking with the public prosecutor about whether to bring other charges or drop the case.

Mael Apisai's appointment as commissioner was quashed two weeks ago and Mr Simon is the acting commissioner.

The 12 applicants for the job are to be re-interviewed.