1 Nov 2007

Tonga Information Minister comments on latest riot trial verdict

10:58 am on 1 November 2007

The Tonga government says it never expected all charges made in the wake of last year's riot in Nuku'alofa to stick.

Few of the suspects have so far been convicted - in the latest court decision, six of seven were acquitted on Tuesday after a lengthy Supreme Court trial.

There has been criticism the prosecutions are not properly prepared.

But the Information Minister, Afu'alo Matoto, says the conduct of the enquiry is up to the police and the crown prosecutor - he says the government does not want to exert any influence whatsoever.

Though Mr Matoto says the option of trial by jury can often produce results that do not reflect the evidence.

"The jury could be influenced by emotions and things like that and therefore make a decision that is maybe not in line with the evidence presented in court. But that is the right of the people to choose to be tried in that fashion and it is also of course an indication of maybe the mood of the country or whatever. These are things that the Government has no control on."