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NUKU'ALOFA, Tonga (September 24, 1997 - Radio Australia)---The Parliament of Tonga has withdrawn charges of fraud against the Kingdom's Justice Minister, Tevita Tupou.

The charges related to a trip the Minister made to the Olympic Games in Atlanta last year without obtaining permission from the Speaker of Tonga's Parliament, Hon. Fusitu'a.

Tupou faced impeachment proceedings over the matter.

Parliament was due to consider eight separate charges against the Justice Minister next week but Tupou apologized and Parliament then voted 12 to 6 to accept the apology and drop the charges.

The move to impeach Tupou was driven by Tonga's pro-democracy movement and by MPs who represent commoners rather than Tonga's nobles.

They say the result is disappointing and unfair, given that pro-democracy campaigners charged by Parliament with various offenses earlier had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to clear their names.

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