8 May 2003

Suspended Marshalls chief justice to face court in August

4:00 pm on 8 May 2003

The suspended Marshall Islands Chief Justice Charles Henry will go to trial on August 4th to face 29 charges of alleged cheating, misuse of government funds and criminal libel.

At a hearing in Majuro, Palau judge Arthur Ngiraklsong, found there was probable cause for moving forward on the charges.

Meanwhile Henry's lawyer, David Lowe, says the Government has no grounds for suing the judge for libel when he was exercising his constitutionally guaranteed free speech rights.

He says it will have a chilling effect on the rights of citizens to engage in free speech, if the Government sue people for comments critical of the Government.

Six charges were originally filed, but in a recent amendment, the Marshall Islands added one count of criminal libel for criticism Henry levied against it in a letter to US Senator John McCain.

In the letter Henry accused the Marshall Islands Government of human rights abuses, and urged that the new Compact, worth three billion dollars, not be ratified until protections for foreign workers were instituted.

The letter was later widely quoted by the US media.