22 Feb 2005

Solomons militant on murder charge tells court that RAMSI promised he would not be charged

7:08 pm on 22 February 2005

One of the three men accused of murdering a Solomon Islands Cabinet Minister says he was assured he would not face charges if he surrendered to the Regional Assistance Mission.

Ronnie Cawa is charged with the killing of Father Augustine Geve in August of 2002 along with former militant colleagues Harold Keke and Francis Lela.

All three have pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The Honiara High Court is yet to decide whether to accept two police interviews submitted as evidence, that yielded confessions from two former militants, Cawa and Lela, for the murder of Fr Geve.

Cawa and Lela's lawyers say the interviews, conducted on an Australian navy ship soon after the arrival of the RAMSI in 2003, should be inadmissible because they hadn't been arrested and did not have lawyers present.

Cawa took the stand today (tues) and said that the RAMSI head at the time, Nick Warner, and its top police officer, Ben McDevitt, had assured the militants they would not be charged if they surrendered their weapons and made peace.