10 Oct 2006

Moti held in Solomons, PNG surprised at escape

2:39 pm on 10 October 2006

The Australian lawyer, Julian Moti, has been detained by Solomons Islands police after flying into the country from Papua New Guinea on a light aircraft this morning.

Mr Moti had been appointed as the Solomon Island's Attorney General by the prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, but this was suspended by the public service commission last week.

Linda Skates reports.

"Mr Moti arrived at Munda in the Western province in the early hours of the morning after being holed up for more than a week in the Solomon Islands High Commission in Port Moresby in order to evade extradition proceedings requested by Australia over alleged sex offences. It's not known what travel documents Mr Moti was using as his Australian passport had been cancelled by Australian authorities. He's currently being questioned by immigration officials. Mr Moti was reported to have been accompanied on the flight by the nephew of prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare. Mr Sogavare is refusing to comment on the issue apart from to say that they are dealing with the situation. Police say they are standing by to assist immigration authorities if requested."

The PNG Government says it knows nothing about reports that the aircraft Mr Moti flew to Solomon Islands on was a Defence force plane.

Prime minister Sir Michael Somare's press secretary, Betha Somare, has told AAP that they are trying to ascertain where the authority came from for the defence force to act, because the PM definitely had no idea about the attorney-general being flown out this morning.

The agency quotes Ms Somare saying it does seem strange.

The PNG Defence Force chief of staff, Captain Tom Ur, also says he was not aware of any military flight out of PNG to the Solomons today.

He says if there was a flight he should know about it.

The Solomon Islands high commissioner to PNG, Bernard Bata'anisia, is also in the dark about the developments.

He says he last saw Mr Moti yesterday morning when his appeal against extradition to Australia was heard in Port Moresby.

The last contact was after the court case, which I think was the later part of the morning. Since then developments have occurred which was not privy to. So I can't comment further on any other issues.