18 Jan 2007

Leading Tonga pro-democracy MP detained in connection with riot

3:38 pm on 18 January 2007

Police in Tonga have arrested the country's highest profile pro-democracy campaigner, Akilisi Pohiva, in connection with the November riot.

He's the second pro-democracy MP to be implicated in the Niovember 16 riot which resulted in seven deaths and major damage to the capital's central business district.

Our correspondent in Tonga, Mateni Tapueluelu, says Mr Pohiva was arrested around 5pm yesterday and his family were asked to provide bedding for him.

"That's when they knew that he was going to be detained. So they've finally arrested him - he's not the only one. The second representative of the people of Tongatapu, Isileli Pulu, has also been detained for about a week now and with the fact that the government have also extended the period for the state of emergency in Tonga, it's predicted that a lot of other politicians and high figures in the political movement will be arrested as well."

Mateni Tapueluelu says no charges have been laid yet against Mr Pohiva.

Some 700 people have been arrested in connection with the riots so far.

Police can keep suspects up to seven days for questioning under the emergency powers put in place since the riot.

Meanwhile 12 New Zealand and 3 Australian police officers remain in Nuku'alofa to assist local police with their investigations into the riots.