14 May 2007

Australia firm in stance on suspended Solomon's AG Moti

3:29 pm on 14 May 2007

The Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, says the Solomon Islands prime minister's plan to send the acting attorney general to Australia this week for talks over Julian Moti will not change their stance to pursue his extradition to Australia.

Mr Moti, an Australian lawyer, is wanted by Australia on child sex charges relating to incidents in Vanuatu in 1997.

However, Manasseh Sogavare has termed Australia's pursuit of Mr Moti as political interference, and refused to have Mr Moti extradited or give up his nomination for him to be the next Attorney General.

Mr Downer says to make a fugitive from the law a chief law officer in Solomon Islands doesn't reflect very well on his country.

He says there is no special law for Australian people who are friends of Mr Sogavare, and the government in Australia cannot drop the charges laid by the Director of Public Prosecutions, whose office works independently of the government.

"It's an extra territorial law in the sense that it applies to child sex activities by Australians outside of Australia, not just within Australian territorial jurisdiction. And so bearing all that in mind it doesn't matter what Mr Sogavare does that will not change the nature of the charges."

The Solomon Islands acting attorney general Nuatali Tongamutu is due to meet with the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Justice Minister later this week.