19 Nov 2002

Vanuatu's Barak Sope blames Australia and New Zealand for his imprisonment

11:17 am on 19 November 2002

Vanuatu's pardoned prime minister, Barak Sope, has accused Australia and New Zealand of manipulating the judicial system to have him jailed because they disagreed with his foreign policy .

Mr Sope, who was freed only months into a three-years prison sentence for fraud, says the two countries were not comfortable with his interest in improving ties with China through his look north policy.

Mr Sope has also been a strong supporter of the Papua independence movement in Indonesia while Australia is a strong supporter of Indonesian control of Papua.

He has accused both Australia and New Zealand of miscalculating public opinion, saying one cardinal point in politics is never to jail your opponents.

President Bani pardoned Sope on medical grounds.