8 May 2013

Vanuatu journalist released from custody

4:18 am on 8 May 2013

A Vanuatu journalist who was arrested for publishing an allegedly seditious statement about the government on the internet has been released from custody.

Gration Tiona was arrested on Sunday over a comment on a popular Facebook forum that he was praying the aircraft transporting the Council of Ministers from its meeting in Torba would crash.

But our correspondent in Port Vila, Hilaire Bule, says the case has been dropped by the prosecution office because the police did not follow proper procedures.

He says the prime minister, Moana Carcasses Kalosil, did not personally lay a complaint with the police and they instead acted on a letter from his legal counsel.

Our correspondent says this is not proper procedure and Mr Tiona is now a free man.

"The complaint against the journalist, they accused him of terrorist acts, seditious publication and threatening language, and the prosecution department said that those charges are serious ones but the only problem is the arrest of the journalist was not following normal procedures. The Prime Minister has to make the complaint to the police."

Hilaire Bule says there has been no word on whether another complaint will be laid.