5 Dec 2002

Vanuatu police chiefs convicted of mutiny

7:25 pm on 5 December 2002

Four of Vanuatu's most senior police officers have been convicted of mutiny.

While the offence in Vanuatu carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, the four have been given two year suspended jail terms.

The four are former acting commissioner Holi Simon, former commander of the Vanuatu Mobile Force, Api Jack Marikembo, Paul Willie Reuben and Eric Pakoa.

They were convicted of mutiny, inciting mutiny, kidnapping and false imprisonment.

Three others have been cleared of all charges.

The mutiny stemmed from the appointment of Mael Apisai as police commissioner in July - a position Simon had been expecting to get.

A section of the police force claimed the appointment was a conspiracy and a team lead by Eric Pakoa staged a series of armed early morning arrests of 15 prominent public officials, including Mr Apisai and the Attorney General Ham Bulu.

Those arrests were later ruled illegal while the appointment of Mr Apisai was also quashed by a court order.