25 Jul 2003

Palau paramount chief sentenced after hitting lawyer with baseball bat

11:05 am on 25 July 2003

Palau's most powerful traditional leader has accepted a plea agreement for hitting an American lawyer with a baseball bat.

A spokesman for Yutaka Gibbons, the paramount chief wants to avoid further division and conflict in a young republic struggling to balance the preservation of its traditions with westernization.

The decision ends months of volatile debate over whether the paramount chief of Koror should be tried.

Gibbons struck lawyer Matthew Johnson several times on January 14th when he refused to leave a Koror State Public Lands Authority meeting.

Mr Johnson was at the meeting as the lawyer for the Palau Public Lands Authority, which has oversight of the Koror body.

Mr Johnson is unhappy with the plea deal, under which Gibbons was fined and told to perform 100 hours of community service.

He says Gibbons should have been charged with attempted murder.