7 Jun 2003

American Samoan official voices concerns over FBI arrests

9:27 am on 7 June 2003

American Samoa's Public Defender, Tautai A. Fa'alevao, has written to the US attorney general, John Ashcroft, voicing his concerns over the way the FBI arrested eight American Samoans.

The eight defendants were rushed to Honolulu where they were charged with embezzling more than 280 thousand US dollars from American Family Life Assurance Company in a medical insurance scam at the hospital in Pago Pago.

Tautai A. Fa'alevao says none of those arrested were afforded access to an attorney or a court hearing before their removal from the territory.

He says one of the defendants was a mother who was arrested in front of her 8 year-old child.

While he recognises the FBI authority to arrest local residents who violated US laws in American Samoa, he says there are territorial laws which provide for protection of American Samoans sought by law enforcement authorities from other jurisdictions.

Tautai A. Fa'alevao also reminded Mr Ashcroft that American Samoa is an unincorporated US territory.